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DOREEN MUHUMUZA: An open letter to the young people in Africa

Muhanuuzi Dorah is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Uganda (PHOTO/Courtesy)

This is one of 38 winning blogs from the 2021 Blog4Dev competition, the World Bank Africa annual writing contest, inviting young people to weigh in on a topic critical to their country’s economic development. Blog4Dev winners responded to the question: How can young people work with their governments and civil society organizations to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and build a stronger post-pandemic economic and social system?

Dear African youths,

Today marks nine months since the first COVID-19 (coronavirus) case was recorded in Egypt earlier this year. In Uganda where I come from, it marks five months since university students under their movement #StudentsAgainstCovid united to lead the way in the fight against the pandemic outbreak in the country. It is an understatement to say that these are tough and uncertain times for us all. The continent is facing an unprecedented crisis. At its core is a public health emergency on a scale not seen before, requiring a response with far-reaching consequences on our economic, social, and political well-being. As governments across Africa prioritize saving lives, I suggest four imperatives on how we, young people can work with them and civil society organizations to build stronger post-pandemic economic and social systems.

Firstly, we must seize the new opportunities for leadership in social transformation. This is important as governance is at the core of resource allocation and distribution with tremendous implications on social and political stability. By taking up such opportunities, we shall be part of the decision-making processes as opposed to sitting on the sidelines. Moreover, there is a need to be alert to the governance challenges that are ripping the continent apart so that we are ready to stand up to them and mobilize for new ways of doing things post-pandemic!

Volunteering is another way that we can work with governments and CSOs. The COVID-19 crisis has proven that young people can be partners in providing support to people’s well-being, especially for vulnerable groups and for people that are unlikely to be aware of relevant government services and support. Accordingly, preliminary data from the OECD Global Report on Youth Empowerment and Intergenerational Justice (OECD, 2020) shows that almost 5 out of 10 countries have youth volunteering programs in place.

We must, therefore, take up such opportunities and volunteer our time to causes that are targeted towards building back better.

Thirdly, we can partner with governments and CSOs, for instance, through using social media and apps to spread accurate information, championing mental well-being, and harnessing the strength of communities among others. These partnerships would also mean that we engage leaders to enable our inclusion in making decisions about matters that affect us, holding governments and CSOs accountable, and ensuring that organizations and centers within communities, which provide activities and programs to the public, are supported by governments.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must stay safe and informed, and ensure that others do, too.

Summarily, in a continent where 60 percent of its population are young people, one thing is clear: How we build back better depends on the extent of young people’s inclusion. Therefore, what we all do next in the coming days in working with our governments and CSOs will determine how well we build stronger and better post-pandemic structures to meet the development needs of our generation and beyond!

I thank you!

Muhanuuzi Dorah
November 2020

Muhanuuzi Dorah is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Uganda. 

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