Under the theme “Building Today for a Prosperous Africa”, SYPALA 2013 took off at the Kabarak University, Kenya. Questions about poverty and underdevelopment plaguing the African continent and what the way forward is pervaded the activities of the 3-day programme with young participants across the continent made to think hard about dealing with these issues.
Tom Palmer, Executive Vice-President for International Programmes at Atlas, spoke on the World Financial Crisis: How this is not the fault of Capitalism, and said that the aim of the conference was not to proselytize participants with dogmas of monotonous ideology but to stimulate participants to think hard about solving the problems of the continent, open their minds to the challenge of creating institutions that make laws work, as well as to challenge the claims and ideologies of politicians.
He also bemoaned the tight controls at borders frustrating inter and intra-regional trade. According to Palmer, “…What is African about stationing a machine gun at the border drawn by the British and French…why is it easier for people in Nigeria to buy goods from Americans or British than people from Ghana, which is almost next door or the Republic of Benin? The reality is that if a Nigerian tries to buy goods from Ghana, he will meet security agencies with machine guns and have to pay certain amount of money without which the goods and services cannot move.”
He further charged participants to exploit the good of social media, an experience their previous generation never had, to champion the cause of change on the continent and create a better future for themselves and the coming generation.
Taking off from where Palmer left, Kofi Bentil Vice-President of IMANI urged the participants to question principles and ideologies that had retarded growth and limited freedom of people to prosper. He spoke at length on What history has taught us about development, prosperity and how to get it.
Speaking on New Media Tools and Liberty in Africa: Perspective, Japheth Omojuwa, a notable blogger urged participants against the backdrop of the youthful population of the continent (50% of Africa’s population are youth), to explore the internet and social media to promote freedom and entrepreneurship in Africa.
Adedayo Thomas, Director of Outreach at Africanliberty.org, argued that government must not interfere in the economic affairs of the people. He stated that the responsibility of the government remained to create laws that would protect the interest of the market.
Among the notable speakers at the conference were Professor Allen Katwalo (Dean) of Kabarak University, Gareth Bloor, Cape Town representative in Mayoral Committee for Economic and Environment Planning, Rejoice Ngwenya, a Zimbabwean liberal Democrat and Deman Yusuf, a lecturer at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania. The others were Olumayowa Okediran, a board member of Students for Liberty (SFL) and Brian Stout, a Masters Student in Netherland.
As usual, the conference did not end without great testimonies from participants. “I didn’t know this kind of forum exists before now. I was just opportune to be part of this and I will spread the message to my friends and Kikuya people”, says Mildred Akoth, a student of Kenya Institute of Management, Nairobi.