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Africa Day from a Malawian Journalist Perspective

Africa Day from a Malawian Journalist Perspective

I was about to leave the office for home on Monday when the chief reporter made one of those requests you do not want to hear when you are home-sick.

“George, do you have [free] time this afternoon?” she asked, “We want someone to cover an Africa Day event.”

Africa Day? It had slipped my mind for a while, but then I remembered because the other day the office had organised a photo shoot for staff to showcase African attire.

Then I further recalled how in my childhood I enjoyed memorizing abbreviations, and OAU was one of my best – the Organisation of African Unity. The OAU presaged the present African Union (AU).

I accepted the request; then I started off to City Centre - the most developed part of the Malawi capital Lilongwe.

When I arrived at the Moroccan embassy, I was greeted by Beni dancers. This is a cultural dance. The performers dress like soldiers. I am told it originated in urban Swahili communities on the Kenyan coast in the 1890s. Around 1914, the style spread to Tanga and Dar es Sallam. During the First World War, Beni was enjoyed in both armies of Kenya and Tanzania. This was a show of what African unity is all about: a cultural dance stretching from East to Southern Africa.

Inside the hall, men and women were dressed elegantly – Western attire, perhaps a reminder of the colonial past, and African attire to stress the growing reversion to Africanism.

Colorful clothes donned the room. Attire like the Dashiki, which is universally worn as an African clothing for both men and women, took the centre stage.

But when this young entrepreneur took to the stage, she reminded me that it is time Africa embraced the digital era as it tries to keep its culture.

“To my fellow young people, I urge you to be in the forefront in spearheading efforts towards attainment of the Malawi 2063,” she said, receiving a loud applause in the room.

The Malawi 2063 (MW2063) expresses the vision and aspirations of Malawians, envisioning a youth-centric inclusive wealth creating and self-reliant nation by 2063.

Nthanda Manduwi, founded Nthanda Foundation, an organisation that advocates for youth empowerment in entrepreneurship and information communication technology (ICT).

She told the gathering that she had just returned from a study visit to the US.

“We are lagging behind. In fact, let me say, we are being pushed away in the digital era,” she said, referring to the tremendous digital development she witnessed first-hand in the United States, “Young people must wake up now and take the lead in the development of the continent.”

“The Malawi development blueprint has a direct impact on the youth. Most of us, the youth, are in our thirties or twenties and by 2063, we will be aged around 60 or 70; we will be the older citizens by the time the plan is meant to come to pass, let’s do our part now.”

Now, there were the young and old. The Moroccan Ambassador to Malawi, Abdelkader Naji, is a charming guy in his golden age. He said the theme for this year’s Africa Day is vital in attaining development for the continent.

The theme for Africa Day 2024 is ‘Education Fit for the 21st Century’ and emphasizes the need to build resilient education systems that ensure increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa.

“Education is not just for the youth. We also need education, like training for the older people like us,” he told reporters in his executively intimidating office.

Malawi’s foreign affairs minister Nancy Tembo was there too.

Like most politicians, she took time to narrate what the government is doing to ensure Malawi moves along with the rest of the world in ICT.

She cited a project where the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority is installing ICT labs in public schools as one such endeavor.

“We are doing a lot to ensure that every young person in Malawi knows how to use the computer,” she told reporters who had intercepted her as tried to leave the hall.

Outside the hall, African food was all over. We ate and chatted. A few beers, too. So, I skipped Kuchekuche in preference to Tanzania’s Kilimanjalo. My cameraperson, Gift Du Phimba, couldn’t resist Konyagi, a strong spirit from Tanzania.

I had time to sample Western and North African food, but I could see many Malawians still grabbing a piece of msima. Perhaps local is best!

As I left the room, I still had in mind the powerful speech by Nthanda – the future for Africa lies in the young of today. Perhaps, these are the ones that will in the next decade realise that trade integration, political tolerance and cultural preservation are the keys to the development of the continent – not these endless wars we have in Sudan or the DRC. Then I said thank you Christina for positively spoiling my afternoon.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 29/05/2024

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