"Transforming young people from Subject to Citizen"
Although they are the majority in more than 2/3 of the African continent, the youth in Africa have remained voiceless and invisible. Because they are deprived of both space and voice, African young people are easy targets for “bandit politicians” and armed groups alike, who recruit them into warfare and bad politics.
Indeed, Africa’s young people have become more of subjects and less of citizens, with limited rights and obligations beyond loyalty to the ‘masters’. This intolerable situation needs to be reversed: African young people need to be part of the African Renaissance, as citizens enjoying their full bundle of rights, with the voice and space to engage governments and other duty bearers.
Popularized by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, African Renaissance is a philosophical and political call to end the violence, elitism, corruption and poverty that seem to plague the African continent, and replace them with a more just and equitable order. African young people need to step up to the plate and explore their potential and capacity to participate in wider societal decision making processes.
At a basic level, the African Renaissance depends on a large number of citizens from a wide group of backgrounds informing themselves about matters of importance to them and taking civic action. Citizens must inform themselves about issues of public importance and express their opinions in an effective way to their elected and appointed officials. Further, citizens should be able to participate in public discourse about issues of significance. They should be able to express their views in a way that is both persuasive and transformational.
As a family of African Young Men’s Christian Associations (YMCAs), the African Alliance of YMCAs (AAY) recognizes that these young people constitute its core business. Their political and economic exploitation are AAY’s primary concern, especially in its struggle to end poverty, war and bad politics in Africa. AAY has resolved to be a constructive force for promoting economic and political engagement aimed at moving the youth from their current status as subjects to becoming citizens.