Speech Delivered by Francis Ben Kaifala, Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone at the International Youth Summit in the Unimak Auditorium, Makeni, Sierra Leone, On 15th January, 2021.
1.All protocols observed, distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
The Sankara Dream retold
2.Over Thirty years ago, Africa had the possibility to change its destiny thanks to one man, a revolutionary, the African version of Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara, who led Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.
3.Thomas Sankara drastically reduced expenses of the state apparatus which up to that point absorbed 70% of the budget; those suspected of corruption were fired. The blue cars were abolished, Sankara arrived at ministerial meetings by bicycle. “We cannot be the rich ruling class of a poor country” he loved to repeat. The foreign heads of states visiting Burkina Faso, were not received in the presidential palaces but in the poor villages of the country. One of the targets of Sankara was to give dignity once again to the neglected peasants. In order to do this, he adopted unpopular political measures such as increasing the prices of agricultural products and introducing customs duties, his mission was to achieve alimentary self-sufficiency.
4.In the revolutionary program of Sankara, the women played an important and somewhat atypical role for an African country. In 1985 he launched the campaign against genital mutilation, he introduced divorce which could be requested by the woman without the consent of her husband – in a predominantly Islamic country, feminine participation in the political life achieved unhoped levels and encouraged exercise and healthy living as a national programme. He believed that youth and young people were the engine of state transformation. He was a through revolutionary youth.
5.On 15th October 1987, the revolutionary experience was interrupted. Thomas Sankara was killed in an organized ambush by his close friends. Today, Burkina Faso has returned to being “a normal” country. Spreading corruption, expenses of the State have returned to previous levels of growth, as has the national debt. The Sankara dream of a non-reliant but self-sufficient country and continent was lost. However, Sankara is still a very strong figure in the collective African imagination. The changes dreamed by him are indeed possible in all of you. As you all gather here today, you have an opportunity to retrace the Sankara dream for your respective countries.
Africa’s Youth potential
6.Africa is potentially the richest continent in the world. Yet, that is all what African has mostly been about since independence. Yet, Africa is particularly famous for its riches in raw materials. Yet, it seems that is all what we are about, an Africa of potentials and raw materials. When will Africa transform into being the finished product? How do African countries move from what Franz Fanon described as the “wretched of the earth” to equals of the great nations of the world?
7.One-third of Africa’s nearly 420 million youths aged between 15-35 are unemployed and discouraged and only one in six is in wage employment, according to the African Development Bank.
8.With regard to employability, according to the African Development Bank report, by 2050 Africa will be home to 38 of the 40 youngest countries in the world, with median populations under 25 years of age. This will result in an estimated 10-12 million new people joining the labour force each year. These statistics clearly indicate that a considerable amount of investment must go into human development to unlock a demographic dividend.
9.Currently, less than 10 percent of African students are enrolled in higher education, and of those that pursue post-basic education, less than 30 percent major in science, medical care, information and communications technology, and engineering.
What the future presents for Africa’s Youth?
10.According to the African Economic Outlook 2017 report, Africa’s growing population is expected to generate a rise in consumer spending from $680 billion in 2008 to $2.2 trillion in 2030. The growth in Africa’s population and increased spending presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurial innovations and ideas to be implemented to accelerate greater prosperity.
11.As many as 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds on the continent who took part in a joint study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and Youth Business International (YBI) were optimistic about the availability of good business opportunities, and believed they had the skills and knowledge to start a business.
12.This compares to just over 17% of young people in the European Union, almost 17% in Asia Pacific and South Asia, and around 30% in North America. The only other region that came close to Sub-Saharan Africa’s optimism was Latin America and the Caribbean, where 40% of the youth believed they had the opportunities, skills and knowledge to start a small business, according to the January 2015 report, “Understanding the entrepreneurial attitudes, aspirations and activities of young people”.
Youth and SDG’s
13.The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (or Global Goals for Sustainable Development) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly. The SDGs are part of Resolution 70/1 of the United Nations General Assembly. Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. That has been shortened to "2030 Agenda.”
14.The goals are broad and interdependent, yet each has a separate list of targets to achieve. Achieving all 169 targets would signal accomplishing all 17 goals. The SDGs cover social and economic development issues, including poverty, hunger, health, education, global warming, gender, equality, water, sanitation, energy, urbanization, environment and social justice. A major threat to the realization of all 17 Goals and 169 targets is corruption.
15.The SDG’s cannot be achieved in a corrupt space. The mechanisms by which anti-corruption, access to justice, accountability and public service delivery can, and has been pursued, highly depends on the degree of control of corruption.
16.SDG 16 which provides for the Promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels is very important to realizing the aspirations of young people across the world and Africa in particular.
17.Also, SDG 16.3 provides for the promotion of the Rule of Law at the national and international levels, and ensure equal access to justice for all. Justice for all would be impossible without the free operation and respect for the rule of law. In fact, the rule of law is mostly nonexistent in Corrupt states. The lack of good governance and the absence for accountability promotes corruption; and corrupt states are poor, they are prone to conflict or conflict ridden, and have weak institutional infrastructures.
18.The common understanding behind SDG16 is that progress on peace and development depends on the creation of inclusive societies in which the rule of law and human rights are respected. This is impossible to achieve with high levels of corruption and not putting young people on the table as part of the decision-making process and implementation actors.
19.While SDG Target 16.3 on rule of law and access to justice helpfully captures this ambition, the longer-term challenge is determining how progress will be measured will depend on the seriousness of the national anti-graft campaign and the inclusion of young people.
20. Effectively localizing or domesticating the SDGs would require serious efforts to deal with corruption and at the same time harnessing the potentials of the youth population; or else we cannot end hunger, end poverty, promote good healthcare, education, globalwarming, genderequality, water, sanitation, energy, urbanization, environment and social justice.
How can Africa Youths leverage opportunities in the continent’s Emerging Economies to help realize SDG’s?
21.Investment in ICT is key. ICT Technology is rapidly changing the employment landscape, generating jobs that demand a range of digital skills. If young Africans are to compete for high-tech, higher-paying jobs and take advantage of increasing opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship-- digital skills training must be at the core of continued education and training.
22.Governments must mainstream digital skills training in the local educational curricula so products of African universities can have skills which makes them competitive.
23.Our educational institutions must include entrepreneurship as a mandatory subject at all levels of education, more young people will be better equipped to create jobs and address the issue of high unemployment.
24.When considering a digital future for Africa, we cannot ignore technology's potential in agriculture, which is a key driver of jobs and central to African countries' inclusive and sustainable growth. Farming alone currently accounts for about 60 percent of total employment in the region, and significantly more when jobs across the entire food value chain are considered. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, for example, the food system is projected to add even more jobs between 2010 and 2025 than the rest of the economy, and technology can increase the number of jobs in agriculture even more. Governments must provide grants and create the infrastructure for youth in engage in mechanized and large-scale farming.
25.Most importantly, the fight against corruption should be an African priority. There is a new thinking, and an international recognition that an effective campaign against corruption, at both local and international levels, reduces poverty, prevents conflict, protects the environment, promotes economic prosperity, of political and social stability, and guarantees the enjoyment and prosperity of youths and young people.
26.Africa is home to over 1.2 billion people; over 60% of its population falls under the age of 25. Being the biggest and most productive category, therefore, youth should have the greatest effect on all national issues of governance, especially corruption. Youth are the engine and promise of all successful states. Hence, we are duty-bound to do something to change the Status Quo.
27.Certainly, as a continent, and one people, we never will achieve peace, prosperity, stability, security, development, freedom, and unity; the Youth can never achieve all our lofty ideals if we fail to combat corruption. Defeat of corruption is a condition precedent for successful nations. The urgency is Now, and only now, not yesterday, because yesterday had passed; not tomorrow, because tomorrow shall be too late.
28.The dynamics of corruption in Africa shows serious dynamism for stealing state resources across ages, even youths, and young people, have proven to be corrupt public officers. The forms of corruption are many and complex to fully understand. No matter the style, type, or dynamics, the effect of same on the continent and its people have been bad, for it promotes wars, undermines development, and the constant incurable cancer. It devours a country. Therefore, Now is the time to defeat the cancer of corruption and move Africa forward.
29.We can start this project by the Youth way; strategic grassroots mobilizations engaging the youths across the continent through education, and reorientation, for Africa remains in the grip of pervasive corruption, which, if not arrested, will continue to sap the continent of its life force and lay the ground for further conflicts.
30.The Youth have great advantage to make a difference given that Africa’s population is young and growing at twice the pace of other continents. Half the current population of sub-Saharan Africa is under 25 years of age, and each year between 2015 and 2035, there will be half a million more 15-year-olds than the year before (Filmer and Fox, 2014).
31.For youths to helpfully contribute to their national dispensations, we should first overcome, and fend off, series of problems and challenges such as a) Difficulty accessing quality education and lack of formal and vocational education; (b) Unemployment, underemployment, and inappropriate training for the opportunities of the job market; (c) Involvement in violent conflicts, as some countries are plagued with political unrest; (d) Drugs and substance abuse; (e) Poverty; (f) Inadequate opportunities to participate in political and socioeconomic decision making; (g) Lack of technological advancement; (h) High vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS and waterborne diseases such as typhoid fever, malaria, Ebola, and various pandemics like COVID 19.
32.Given this reality, youths have been at the brunt of the suffering in Africa. Poverty, illiteracy, war, and its attendant consequences, all of which are mostly as a consequence of corruption, have seriously taken their tolls on the youth population; and unfortunately, youths and young people still constitute the most vulnerable group on the continent.
33.Many youths have the desire and capacity to transform the world and with great potentials to positively affect future anti-corruption efforts. As the new generation of politicians, entrepreneurs and civil society actors, youths have a critical role to play in not only bringing a new culture of integrity, but to fight corruption at all levels of the society in Africa.
34.In order to get the youths to become and remain engaged in anti-corruption initiatives, YOUTH should engage in serious advocacies for youths and young people to be included as stakeholders in national state governance; including anti-corruption policy development and implementation of anti-corruption strategies.
35.Youths must be in a position to perceive ownership of the actions they are involved in. The more the youths take the lead, the better the policies have the chance to succeed because youths are the biggest factor in all governance issues. Young people are more likely to be creative in their approach to problem-solving.
36.Within the Sankara Dream, the main objectives or goals of the YOUTH should be the advancement of the role of youths in national development, along the following objectives:
a)Anti-corruption policy-making and improving youth capacity to unveil and oppose corruption;
b) b) Anti-corruption education and fight against corruption in education,
c)The protection of youth whistle-blowers; civil society organizations and youth associations;
d)The protection and advancement of Public Officials who are youths
37.In the next decade, we expect youth in all countries:
a)To influence policy-making aimed at improving youth capacity in order to unveil and oppose corruption at all levels in Africa;
b) To support initiatives and encourage the participation of young people in integrity activities across Africa, through Youth Integrity Camps and training programs on anti-corruption policies and issues;
c)To involve relevant youth organizations and/or representatives in framing and implementation of policies pertaining to the field where youths are active; in particular, politics, education, sports and the media;
d)To uphold youth organizations’ initiatives and actions, in particular, through targeted support to selected youth projects;
e)To set up national networks where young people can share their experiences and knowledge about good governance and leadership, disseminate good practices and devise proposals for future action;
f)To foster the approach that quality education will only be achieved, and corruption effectively addressed, if all relevant sectors of society commit fully to fundamental positive ethical principles for public and professional life, rather than relying only upon top-down mechanistic regulatory measures;
g) To introduce integrity studies, as from the earliest age, in the national school and university curricula, including both the aspects of personal values and ethical behavior, and a human rights-based approach;
h) To engage youths in a strategy to fight education fraud, with the help of relevant stakeholders;
i) To involve young anti-corruption crusaders in developing strategies against corruption and unethical behavior within an education system through participation in the drafting of ethical charts and codes of conduct for schools and universities, staff and students;
j) To design an integrity or transparency index in a bid to encouraging educational institutions to be more transparent with regards their budgets and internal procedures; including, but not limited to, staff promotions, exams, marking, and entry of grades;
k) To develop anti-corruption educational materials aimed at students and teachers at various levels in Africa;
l)To support the work of organizations engaged in providing legal advice, training and support in reporting and denouncing incidents of corruption;
m) To consider setting up a support fund for helping youth whistle-blowers cope with direct and indirect consequences of their revelations;
n) To support the creation of e-platforms where all citizens can access information on how to combat corruption and share knowledge of good practices;
o) To consider introducing an anti-corruption training and certification systems for persons seeking employment; and
p) To involve relevant youth organizations and/or representatives in framing and implementation of anti-corruption policies pertaining to the field where youth are active, in particular, politics, education, sports and media.
38.As the new generation of politicians, entrepreneurs and civil society actors, the Youths of Africa must have an important role to play in bringing a new culture of integrity to all levels of society. Young people need to be bold, confident, and relentless in their pursuit of excellence. You are the present and future. You have what it takes to shape the narrative and set the agenda. You should strive to be more aware and use your powerful platforms to claim seats at the decision-making table. You do not have to wait for precious invitation. You should hold your leaders accountable for their leadership and democratic governance credentials. Young people must drive the change that Africa needs with the Sankara spirit.
39.My advice to you - the youth - is that you should understand that youth is not a permanent stage of life – it is transient. However, it is the time when you can do many things and achieve a lot without pressure. Take advantage of that period in your lives and accumulate as much in terms of education, achievements and plans. The years after youth go faster, with enormous pressures from many things; and above all are mostly uncertain. Young people of Africa, take every day as a gift to achieve more from life. Strive to make a difference while you are strongest and under less pressure from the demands of life; lest it may soon be too little too late. You can retrace the Sankara dream and help Africa locally move towards sustainability and self-reliance; which is what the SDG’s hope to achieve globally!
I thank you all
Long Live Africa!
FRANCIS BEN KAIFALA, ESQ
THE COMMISSIONER, ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION