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South Africa: Africa Youth Network Summit

Africa Youth Network Summit at Freedom Park, Jul 20 - 21

On the afternoon of 21 July 2018, Graca Machel held my hand and told me to sit closer to her. Her words resounded in my head as she said, 'humility is about remembering where you come from, and staying rooted to who you are.' She caressed my cheek as only a mother would, giving me her full attention in a room filled with people eager for a moment of her time.

2018 is the centenary year of Nelson Mandela. The Africa Youth Network Summit that took place from July 20 to 21, 2018 celebrated the life of the Nobel Prize winner born on 18th July a century ago. Graca Machel trust, MINDS (Mandela Institute for Development Studies), #MadibaInYou campaign and partners celebrated Mandela's life by bringing at least 200 young African leaders to South Africa to nurture a solid pan-African movement among the youth.

Selfie with Mama Graca (l) Adja Sembene (c) and me (r)

2018 is an important year because it marks Nelson Mandela’s centenary. Mandela was one of the greatest leaders of our time and thus it is befitting to build a movement that will identify, strengthen and support Africa’s youth networks to produce the next generation of leaders who will embody his values.
On the 20th and 21st of July, GMT and MINDS will bring together youth leaders and change-makers from across Africa in a historic meeting of minds for the inaugural African Youth Networks Summit. Besides connecting organisations to each other and exchanging ideas, this gathering should help to forge among the delegates consensus around a common youth-led agenda to take the continent forward. "

I was privileged to be in Pretoria for the Africa Youth Network Summit, representing my two organizations, SAFIGI Foundation and Digital Grassroots. The trip itself was nothing short of a miracle, having received my visa and flight information only a night before. It is only an understatement to say this was my best birthday yet.

Freedom Park, Pretoria South Africa Image: Hadassah Louis

The #Madiba100 #AYNS took place at Freedom Park in Pretoria - a historic encapsulation of pan-Africanism and a collection of memories painful and beautiful about South Africa and the continent. The location could not have been more fitting for the collective ideas morphed in one voice of African youth, each craving a beautiful future for the continent we are working for.

Adja Sembene, founder of Jollof Brights and a Women Deliver fellow, introduced me to this event. She was also a great support during the birth of Digital Grassroots, even mentoring our French cohort in our inaugural French cohort.

Duckface and continental progress.

My core interest during the conference was on the theme of peace and security. I shared findings from my organization SAFIGI Foundations Safety Report on core issues affecting safety for girls, and what this means for safety in the region. Reflections were also made of the fact that rape is used as a weapon of war and ongoing conflicts the region in enduring - including first hand experiences shared by survivors. This particular segment of the summit opened my eyes to how we've become numb to news of atrocities and how this hurts peace processes.

Freedom Park offered a unique perspective on the fight for freedoms in Africa, especially in the context of apartheid in South Africa. I was really drawn to the art, the history, the installment and features - so much, I wandered away and left all my belongings unattended. And then, after my tour, they were gone from my seat and the empty room. This was followed by ten minutes of panic, and a good lesson for me as well. The organizers were very sharp and had gathered them to keep in a safer place. I didn't ask about my notes though which went missing. Otherwise, I am grateful at how attentive the hosts were at the event.

Africa has had a dark history, but has much changed?

Later on, after discussions, we had to brainstorm of the feasibility of a pan-African youth movement, weighing the pro's and con's. I was privileged to speak on behalf of youth on why we need to have a united platform to work on for the advancement of Africa.

On the last day, at Fort Manort by Marriot in Pretoria, we as youth came together in one melody and wrote a song celebrating heroes of the pan-African movement - just in the wee hours before midnight. It is a new day indeed.

The summit, graced by the greatest minds on the continent was not about discussing and returning to our work. The summit was the beginning of a movement; a great beginning for my first visit to South Africa.

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