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Voices of Young African Leaders Heard at Obama's Forum

When the President of the United States Barack Obama opened his remarks at the White House Town Hall meeting by telling the Ghanaian delegates that “they will see each other” again for a rematch at the 2014 World Cup, the delegates gladly accepted the challenge. They also accepted a more significant challenge, that the development of their nation and as a matter of fact, of the continent as a whole rested primarily on the shoulders of African youth. The three-days-long get together in Washington DC was remarkable because of the dynamism and fearlessness of the young African delegates. The meeting were filled with passionate pleas for more collaboration between African nations, calls for holding political leaderships more accountable, boosting innovation, promoting tolerance towards diverging political or religious point of views and the role of internet in making their goals achievable.

delegates from Madagascar and Mali – Under CC license 3.0 share alike

All the delegates were well-versed in the intricacies of information technology but many of them expressed the worries that most of their compatriots still did not have access to internet and were therefore shunned from the exchange of ideas that take place online.
Halimatou Hima Moussa Dioula grew up in Niamey, Niger and has just completed a degree in international relations/economics from Wellesley College. She is a member of Harambe Endeavor Alliance, a group of African students and young professionals who strives to push the African Intellectual pool worldwide to reinvest into the economic development of Africa. She states in the following video her hopes for her country, the changes she would like to make happen to remedy the status quo and her disappointment at the incomplete portrayal of Niger in international media and [Fr]:

“C’est vrai que l’on a la famine et que les retombées de l’uranium ne sont pas distribuées equitablement. Mais il y a tellement de gens qui essayent de faire bouger des montagnes au Niger mais on en parle pas parce que soit ils sont dans des regions éloignées, mais aussi parce que les medias ne sont intéressé que par le sensationel. [..] Nous avons besoin que les histoires positives sont mieux connues pour ne pas sombrer dans le pessimisme. Je pense que grace aux resources naturelles, le Niger peut-être un des tigres de l’Afrique dans 20 ans et que l’on parlera du miracle nigérien. “

“it is true that we have famine and that the benefits of Uranium are not equitably redistributed. Still, there are so many people who are trying to move mountains in Niger but we don’t hear about them because either they are located in remote regions or because media is just interested in the sensational news [..] We need positive stories to come out so that we don’t dwell into pessimism. I think that thanks to our many natural resources, Niger could very well be the next Tiger of Africa and that we will be speaking of the Nigerien miracle in 20 years”.

Hima adds that her relative who sells tomatoes in Southern Niger does not have access to internet. He sells his tomatoes to larger corporations who take advantage of the fact that he is not aware of the latest market price for his goods and results in substantial loss of income.
In Chad, Jareth Beain is the Head of Program on Public Resource Management, Group for Alternative Research and Monitoring of the Chad-Cameroon Petrol Project. He argues that African inventors would gain to be more supported and recognized outside of their country. He explains the principle of an invention by his colleague Djerassem Bemadjiel in Ndjamena that aims to provide enough electrical power for a village with just one liter of gas [fr]:

“The idea is to combine a foraging device to drill a wellbore for water with a fluid pumping system that will create a pressure gradient that will feed the generator in energy.”

The invention is currently under examination for a patent and the details of the invention can be found here. Djerassem Bemadjiel hopes that better internet access will facilitate the sharing of their local inventions and collaboration with other engineers.

Real time and fact-based news about Togo are the main goals of Eric Nopklim Kaglan and his agency Savoir News. He argues that press freedom and a reasonable conversation cannot take place if there is no consensus on the basic facts. He is reassured by the fact that all sides of the Togolese political scene as well as the international community have approved of the integrity of their journalistic work. He is also proud of the fact that his agency is the only private online news provider in Togo, it maintains its sustainability by providing rapid fact-checked information to subscribers for a fee.

Antoine Assalé Tiémoko from SOS Justice Cote d'Ivoire and Eric Nopklim Kaglan, Head of English Desk of Savoir News

For Ivorian Journalist Assale Tiemoko Antoine, governance, transparency and freedom of the press are the key to development in Africa. Assale knows this from personal experience. Not unlike his colleagues from Le Nouveau Courier a few weeks ago, Assale spent 12 months behind bars from December 2007 to December 2008 for his reporting on government corruption. He promotes transparency through his association SOS Justice Côte d’Ivoire and his blog. Other activists for press freedom in Africa are highlighted in this article by Mohamed Keita for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Internet can also be a vehicle for better communication between communities who are sometimes at odds. Aminatou Daouda Hainikoye is adamant that the women’s rights movement in Niger needs to take into account both the important cultural specificity of her country but also embrace the basic principles recommended by international human rights organizations [fr]:

She argues that an exchange of point of views between religious leaders, defenders of Nigerien’s identity and human rights activists must continue on a regular basis for women’s rights to make progress in Niger. Being an advocate of both her faith-based community and women’s rights organization, Aminatou Daouda Hainikoye hopes to be the bridge between the two communities.

Statement by Young African Delegates at Newseum read by Marie Tamoifo Nkom from Cameroon ,Nadja Gomes from Mozambique, Najma Ahmed Abdi from Somalia

The forum appropriately concluded with a statement read by three women delegates in English, French and Portuguese in which they reasserted that they are ready to lead and change the narrative about the African continent [Pt]:

Many delegates also  made it clear that they saw the United States as a partner but not as a savior in their task of taking their regions through the next 50 years of their independence.  A group of delegates spontaneously came together in a song to put the final touch on a busy but hopeful trip.

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