”How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
When William Shakespeare wrote these words, prejudices against humanity were most probably less common than they are today.
Although much has changed since, a considerable segment of humanity still needs a shoulder to lean on.
Susie Gubler, a Swiss Kinesiologist, and Letlapa Mphahlele, a former South African freedom fighter and member of the National Assembly of South Africa who represents the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, joined hands to found the global Co-Willing Movement to help hundreds of the less fortunate youths in Africa.
Other members of the commitment of the willing include: Acuil Malith Banggol, Allan Boyles, Gita Goven, Hans Rudolf Herren, Paul Hoffman, Rommel Roberts, Ekuru Aukot, Yeah Samake, among others.
I had the privilege of spending the previous weekend in Kwale County with some of the members of this growing international movement that encourages good governance and promotes sustainable development in Africa, with emphasis on implementing projects specifically in compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Their annual ”Davos” conference is held in January to deliberate on economic development issues.
Issues range from climate change, harnessing the blue economy, renewable energy, urban housing and development, natural water retention systems, practical agricultural practices, digitisation in ICTs, harnessing science, technology and innovation for sustainable development, etc.
Mr Mphahlele’s reflections about Africa were startling. This former director of operations in the Pan African armed wing, which once regarded all whites as legitimate targets as they were deemed to be complicit in the government’s policy of apartheid, is talking peace and reconciliation.
He regrets that his fellow blacks have turned against fellow African when other non-Africans immigrants from Turkey, China and Philippines are flocking into South Africa seeking opportunities.
He says that South Africa is the most unequal society in Africa. ”We are not doing well in developing our human resource capacity, especially in science. During the World Cup, we brought plumbers, welders, electricians and virtually all other trades from Turkey and Egypt. This is not what we fought for. Yet we know that when people are marginalised, violence is the outcome. The only way out is skills development and empowering the people.”
”There is still hope that with good leadership, we can reverse the fortunes,” I said.
He turned his face slowly to reveal his frustration and perhaps thought that I was not serious with my utterances.
”The violence we see in South Africa is different from what I have seen anywhere. Perhaps it points to something else we don’t know. In other parts of Africa, when you confront a mugger, they ran away but in South Africa, they harm you,” he said.
Like in most other countries of Africa, skills development is a wish and this was not the first time I was discussing the same.
The youth in most African countries shuns vocational training. You can no longer get a good carpenter, mason or medical equipment repair technicians. Foreigners have taken up these lucrative trade school jobs and vocational school careers.
I turn to Lireko Faku, a youth delegate from South Africa.
”What is the problem with you guys?” I ask.
”I don’t have a problem,” she tells me. ”Besides being a volunteer English teacher, I am taking vocational training in Kinesiology.” That is the scientific study of human or non-human body movement which addresses physiological, biomechanical, and psychological dynamic principles and mechanisms of movement.
I also met several associates of the Co-Willing movement including Yakub Jaffer and Wycliffe Guguni who at their tender age have managed to found Kibra Green (a Community based organisation, formed to deal with the current environmental hazard and poor water sanitation), Watumoja (a private primary school in Kibra), and Tiwindogo (focused around ocean cleaning and a sports academy to develop talent).
With a shoestring budget, Yakub has had some success with two of his best players having gone to German football academies.
One of the best, Richard Odadatried with Inter Milan, Ajax and Juventus FC before landing a four-year contract with Serbia’s giants, Red Stars in Belgrade.
Yeah Semake, a delegate and former Malian presidential candidate sees the Co-Willing initiative as a major vehicle tackling Africa’s problems.
Mr Semake is of the opinion that Africa fails when we fail in our responsibility to teach young people life skills. As he tried to emphasise the point about responsibility, he became emotional and started to narrate how he grew up in poverty and got this one chance to study in America where he learnt the values of hard work. ”We must pass such knowledge to our youth,” he concluded.
To his credit, he has done well for his country, helping build community schools and mentoring the youth in order to help them find themselves.
He walks the talk and hopes that many more people will join the Co-Willing movements to begin making change rather than waiting for governments to initiate development.
We’ve got a lot more power within us to change the world but that change begins with the individual self.
The writer is an associate professor at University of Nairobi’s School of Business.@bantigito