Two savvy Africans urge frustrated youth activists to drive political change by holding officials to their word and harnessing innovative ideas and words.

Are you a young person yearning for change and a better world? Do you feel that global leaders are not listening to young people like you?

Those are questions that Brian Gordon Olemo, a student at the African Leadership Academy (ALA), puts to two African political activists: Obakeng Lesayane, a social justice advocate and fellow at Apolitical Academy, and Faith Abioudun, an entrepreneur and director of Marketing and Recruitment at ALA.

“Today most climate change activists are young people,” Olemo says at the outset of this episode of News Decoder’s podcast, The Kids Are Alright.

“People listen to them, but then their message does not really have that deep-seated impact,” Olemo says, citing climate change activists Greta Thunberg of Sweden and Vanessa Nakate of Uganda.

Lesayane acknowledges how hard it can be for a young person to find a political party that embodies their ethics and values, but he urges youth to push elected officials to follow up on their promises and to press for stronger institutions to protect democracy.

“I think a certain part of making sure that power does what it’s actually meant to do is having strong institutions to be able to hold it to account,” Lesayane says.

 Youth can drive political change.

Abioudun urges youth not to be discouraged and to remember statesmen like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.

“If we listen to the words of Nelson Mandela, he always said it looks impossible until it is done,” Abioudun says, exhorting youth to combine knowledge with the power of words.

“In Obama, you saw both of those worlds coming together — ideas and communication. When you bring those two things together, you move people to action,” Abioudun says.

“Words have power either for good or for evil, and a person who is a skilled communicator can deploy this tool,” Abioudun says. “Every young person who underestimates the power of words has not yet set themselves up for a career of success.”

The ALA administrator said today’s youth should embrace innovation and not settle for the advances that older generations clinched.

“We should be imagining what role each of us can play in specific sectors. Each of us should figure out, if I could address one challenge, if I could create a set of solutions for Africa in my time, which challenge would I face?” Abioudun said.

“And then, just go for it.”

ALA is one of 19 News Decoder partner schools in 14 countries. For more work by ALA students on News Decoder, click here.

The Kids Are Alright is produced with News Decoder partner Charlie Duffield edited this episode.


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Tendayi Chirawu is News Decoder’s Communications and School Engagement Manager. A citizen of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, she has a masters degree in Global Communication & Civil Society from the American University of Paris. She joined News Decoder in July and has experience working for non-profit and for-profit organizations in Africa, Asia and Europe. Chirawu is a published author and has written for international news publications.

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