Perspectives: Empowering African youth for positive change

Inspired by Mandela's vision for a united Africa and implementing this through youth empowerment, the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS) organised Mandela Day on July 14, 2023.

The late former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela firmly believed in education's transformative power and ability to bring dignity, self-actualisation, and prosperity to Africans.

Throughout his presidency and after, he dedicated much of his efforts to ensuring that children from across the continent had equal access to education, regardless of their economic background.

Mandela firmly believed that the liberation struggle was not for South Africa alone; instead, Africa had to work together to achieve this liberation.

His travels across the continent reflect a leader committed to informing his struggle for freedom with learnings from various people on the continent. As the Commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC's armed wing, he secretly trained in Ethiopia.

In Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania), Mandela met with former Tanzanian president, anti-colonial activist, politician, and political theorist Julius Nyerere, who undoubtedly influenced his interpretation of African nationalism.

On January 25, 1962, Mandela arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, on a clandestine trip to support the armed struggle.

The Nigerian government even went as far as imposing a special tax to raise funds for the liberation cause.

In his speech addressed to the Special Committee Against Apartheid, Mandela expressed solidarity with the people of Western Sahara, further reflecting his pursuit of liberation across the continent and embodying the unity he sought for the continent.

Inspired by Mandela's vision for a united Africa and implementing this through youth empowerment, the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS) organised Mandela Day on July 14, 2023. The Mandela Day roundtable promoted a sense of community among the MINDS scholars as well as created a platform for youth to influence one another in pursuit of an Africa whose young people self-determine and embody the Pan-Africanism for which Nelson Mandela aspired.

On Mandela Day, MINDS Scholars were challenged to demonstrate their definition of transformational leadership in their communities.

Fueled by creativity and passion, the scholars showcased their knowledge, experiences, and ideas to bring the pan-African dream to life.

The MINDS scholars are inspiring young minds to take charge and lead for positive change in different parts of Africa.  The scholars selected demonstrate leadership potential, resilience in the face of adversity, and a commitment to carry forward legacy of ethical leadership and social justice.

MINDS is a Pan-African organiSation that promotes shaping Africa's present and future through its youth.

Some of the projects presented by the scholars on the Mandela Day that showcase transformative leadership and implementation modalities are explained in the sections below.

MINDS scholarS from South Africa at the African Leadership University (ALU) in Rwanda paid tribute to Nelson Mandela through a series of engaging projects that will inspire individuals to embrace their leadership potential and contribute to the advancement of their communities and the continent as a whole through the Nelson Mandela Leadership Masterclass that will support emerging leaders in Africa by exploring Mandela's leadership journey and teaching them essential leadership skills, core principles, and practical strategies for applying them in various contexts.

The Nelson Mandela International Day Pledge Wall was set up at ALU's main campus to encourage commitment to transformational leadership and positive change in Africa.  It was available until July 18 and aims to unite people, promote collaboration and accountability, and honour Mandela's legacy.

With a vision to create a world where communities, governing bodies, and businesses create supportive environments free of discrimination for mental health well-being with accessible mental health care by 2030, the scholars will contribute towards the reduction of stigma associated with mental illness in Leribe, Northern District of Lesotho, targeting a youth. The scholars aim to advocate for mental health care in Lesotho.

This is to be implemented by a collaboration of scholars from Cameroon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.

At Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, Scholars from Benin, Burundi, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria are creating an inclusive platform that will convene young people and facilitate networking, robust exchange of ideas, and discourse on current issues as one way to fan the flames of transformational leadership in young Africans.

 The platform will provide information on African stories, heritage, heroes, and pan-African leaders. It will also have a repository website with interactive features and allow users to contribute information that will promote transformative leadership and pan Africanism while providing a fun and engaging learning experience.

The platform can be used for panel discussions and is scalable for long-term use.

MINDS Scholars from Botswana, Ghana, and Uganda at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, will promote solidarity and access to opportunities for young people in Africa by creating a virtual space for dialogue and collaboration.

The objective of this Mandela Day of Service aims to redefine transformative leadership, promote cooperation among MINDS Scholars and youth movements, and build the next cohort of MINDS scholars with leadership skills.

The scholars will host online sessions for exchange with civil society organizations, inviting diverse perspectives for dialogue.

This is a great way to share resources, knowledge, and network expansion.

In today's world, we must continue to recognize and celebrate African leaders' hard work and dedication.  To do this, the scholars from Ghana, Gambia,s and Tanzania are creating a platform where young Africans can come together to learn and be inspired by the example of these transformational African leaders.

They will organize a webinar event targeting the youth and fellow students, providing an excellent opportunity to engage the public and create awareness about these inspiring African leaders.

This platform will also be used to discuss the challenges that African leaders have faced and showcase the positive impact they have had on the continent.

Furthermore, as part of empowering youth for positive change to advance the vision of a united Africa, The Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) convened 37 MINDS scholars from across the continent for the 2022 MINDS Leadership Programme from August 29  to September 1  in Accra, Ghana.

The MINDS Scholarship Programme for Leadership Development in Africa is committed to developing young leaders with a continent-wide development mindset and commitment to facilitate greater cooperation between African countries.

The scholarship programme enables African students to study in an African country other than their home country and, in this way, immerse themselves in the richness and diversity that the country and its communities have to offer.

The programme has so far supported 157 scholars from across the continent, creating a network of like-minded leaders- working together to create a more cohesive continent for the benefit of all people.

  •  *Ronald Zvendiya  is an independent monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning expert. Contact details: [email protected],
  • These weekly Insight articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultants (Private) Limited, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe. Email - [email protected] and mobile No.+263 772 382 852.

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