Why we protect the very borders that divide us, the Individual as the starting point for transformation, and other discussions
On May 22nd, the Africa Week events kicked off with a full day public dialogue, in which activists, leaders and individuals from across the continent discussed and reflected on African socio-economic and political issues. This also involved considering strategies to address Africa’s numerous challenges and finding practical ways of tapping into the potential for the re-awakening of Africa.
Several speakers offered insights on topics ranging from democracy to the role of African women in a transformative agenda.
Bishop Paul Verryn emphasized the importance of social cohesion and equality as mechanisms that need to be implemented to build an Africa that is free of social injustices, such as xenophobia. He also highlighted the fact that each and every individual has or must be given an opportunity to find within themselves whether he or she has something to contribute to the betterment of the society. In this he showed the participants that all of us have a role to play in building our respective communities.
Gino Govender spoke about the concept of democracy, reflecting on the 20 years of democracy in South Africa, and locating this in the much longer history of human existence and interaction on the African continent. He posed the question, “where do we come from and how did we get here?”, and pointed out that migration has always been a part of our history. He challenged Africans, as a people, to think beyond borders, explaining that once we understand how the borders came about, we will reject them, rather than protecting the very colonial borders that shaped discrimination and equality in African society. He asked how our education has facilitated that school of thought, and suggested that the way to a truly democratic state lies with state and community co-operation. It is therefore important that we empower grassroots initiatives of development.
Isabella Matambanadzo discussed the challenges facing African women, and the tragedy that in Africa women are still exploited and disempowered. She made a call to bring back the 200 Nigerian girls, saying that women should have a right to education. Participants agreed that the empowerment of women is central to the empowerment of Africa as a whole, and men and women alike must be part of the solution.
Mzi Sibeko led the final session, and facilitated an open discussion, responding to the topics raised. He invited participants to speak in whichever language they felt most comfortable with, which encouraged the flow of input from the floor. Some of the thoughts and reflections are as follows:
- Society needs to be empowered by basic education, to help smooth transitions into a democracy.
- Africa needs to eliminate the politics of class in its systems.
- Africanism happens when we begin to travel across Africa without being asked for our passports.
- Unity will take Africa forward even when other strategies fail.
- The “second best” mentality must die; and Africans must embrace their full potential.
- Great leadership does not come from a vacuum, but is a reflection of the people you lead; there cannot be great leaders without great people.
- We need to find ways to unlock the potential of women. We need to find a consensus between men and women in regards to cohesion in leadership.
- A television show might be necessary for the sending of the solidarity message.
- Collaboration among organizations is necessary for the practicality of our objective.
- Self-reflection is an essential component of change; we must be the change we want to see in the world
In conclusion, the day provided a space to discuss in depth the challenges facing Africa, and share in motivating and inspiring one another to take action. Action that starts within ourselves, and our communities, and through our collective efforts can contribute to the Africa we envision.