By Ogova Ondego
Published June 10, 2016
Were Africa’s 200 million-strong youth (ages 15-24) to protest against social injustice, insecurity, discrimination and other social ills plaguing the mother continent, how far would their action go?
This appears to be the question BBC shall tackle in its monthly BBC Africa Debate on June 15, 2016 from Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial capital.
Though the global multi-platform broadcaster states that “young people have played a key part in movements that changed governments, for example Tunisia, Senegal and Burkina Faso,” it nevertheless poses the rhetorical, if not redundant question: “Can youth protests bring about lasting change?”
Like BBC, I am intrigued by young people and what they can achieve with their sheer large number, energy and enthusiasm. Oh, the youth riots that swept South Africa’s black townships on the south-western parts of Johannesburg, popularly known by their acronym, SoWeTo (South Western Towns) in 1976 over forced introduction of Afrikaans in the school curriculum as the main language of instruction, gave impetus to the struggle that was to culminate in the fall of Apartheid and the rise of black majority rule in South Africa in 1994.
Though not experienced in public demonstrations for change, young Sarafina, tired of her mother’s complacency and acceptance of the status-quo as a domestic servant for a white family, leads her age-mates into rejecting the status-quo as the new normal. This is what SARAFINA! is about.
A couple of days ago, Mercy ShikuNgima Kareithi, a lawyer who specialises in child protection and inter-generational equity, challenged Community Enablers, an eastern African group on WhatsApp whose aim is to bring about social transformation through children and youth using media, what members can do to “secure the future of our community’s children” as we celebrate the World Day against Child Labour (WDaCL) and the Day of the African Child on 12 June 2016 and 16 June 2016, respectively.
As I was still grappling with lawyer Kareithi’s question, BBC’s International Publicists sent in a statement about the BBC Africa Debate. Then I could hold my horses no longer. If we, adults, don’t do much, the youth will act. But what sort of change could their action bring across the mother continent?
But before we can get it answered, South Africans are on June 16, 2016 commemorating the 40th anniversary of the SoWeTo uprising that SARAFINA!, Darrell Roodt’s well-loved musical film shot in 1992, immortalises. Didn’t that uprising give impetus to the struggle that was to culminate in the fall of Apartheid and the rise of black majority rule in South Africa in 1994?
A study by the Africa Development Bank (ADB) shows that Africa has the most youthful population in the world. I wonder if the Azanian (South African!), Tunisian, Senegalese and Burkinabe youth-led ‘revolutions’ could be replicated across Africa.
Perhaps the June edition of BBC Africa Debate, as it examines the 40th anniversary of the Soweto uprisings and the police brutality that had a “profound impact on the social and political landscape in South Africa”, may provide the answer to the rhetorical question above.
“The BBC Africa Debate – the flagship current affairs discussion programme on BBC World Service radio – will be broadcast live from Soweto on 15 June at 1500GMT,” a BBC International Publicity statement says. “Presenters Audrey Brown and Busisiwe Gumede will be joined by an invited audience and a distinguished panel including figures who were directly affected by and involved in the Soweto uprisings.”
Can youth protests bring about lasting change?
BBC says its broadcasts On June 16 “will include a look at what the Soweto protests achieved” and “explore the issue of youth discontent.”