I believe people are masters of their own fate. Since I started having an interest in citizen participation in governance, I am convinced that citizens are masters of the fate of nations. The podcast on Radio France International or RFI about the optimism of Zimbabwe’s youth (L’optimisme de la jeunesse du Zimbabwe in French) posted on February 18, 2016 seems to endorse my vision.
Zimbabwe is a dictatorship, and a well-known one. Robert Mugabe is 89 years old and has been ruling the country since 1987. I will not talk about what he has been doing since he came to power. My interest here is the attitude of the youth towards bad governance and oppression.
The youth we are talking about are people called “born-free” because they were born after 1980, the year the country has been granted independence. The literacy rate of Zimbabwe is very high, and young people are hungry of knowledge. They have no interest in politics and politicians because, as the majority of people in African countries with a dictatorial regime, they have in some way lost hope. All they want is to learn and develop their country at their level.
Limbikani Makani is the owner of the platform TechZim, a website on technology. In this podcast, he says that they are all aware of the political and economical isolation, as well as the negative image of the country when it comes to investment. But Limbakani says that though foreigners and even Zimbabweans do not trust the national market, it is possible to make good investments in his country. He is an entrepreneur. As several young Zimbabweans, he took advantage of the good Internet penetration and created a platform that worths around 100,000 US dollars today. Limbikani made it his goal to boost the image of his country.
The young man says that though infrastructures fostering investments suffer a lot because of mismanagement, they still exist and can be used to do great things. Young people got that, so they rely on what is available. The country has a high Internet penetration, so the digital market is booming thanks to applications and platforms created to help people first, before being lucrative. The key is content useful and adapted to locals.
Hopes for change have been constantly disappointed so young people decided to be the change and achieve great things. They created a new form of patriotism that has nothing to do with politics. They do not need to rule or wait for leaders to take action to make the country and its inhabitants prosper. All they need is their knowledge, and that knowledge is used for the general interest.
Takunda Chingonzoh, 23, is one of the young Zimbabwean entrepreneurs shining internationally. He was the youngest participant to the Young African Leaders Initiative, now Mandela Washington Fellowship, in 2014. Takunda is the co-founder of Neolab Technology P/L, a multi award winning start-up working on bringing free Internet access to the public. He is also the co-founder of NeoEffect, a social start-up working towards the empowerment of underprivileged youth through IT Literacy in southern Zimbabwe.
It seems the philosophy of Neolab is also his: “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have and never be satisfied”. Takunda applied for a licence for the supply of Internet access three years in a row, to no avail. He decided to go round this obstacle and draw on its own resources. The young man created his third startup, Saisai Wireless which proposes to companies with a licence for the supply of Internet access solutions for a more reliable, rapid, safe and less costly network.
“I am young, we are a new generation, and if we do not work together to create our own future, no one will”, says Limbikani. This statement is a philosophy in itself. Though things are moving lately in Africa in terms of innovation, we still rely a lot on politics and politicians. Many of us think nothing can be done at the citizens’ level, everything should come from “up”. We are complaining all day long about mismanagement and bad governance. Do not get me wrong, my point here is not that we should accept how we are treated as citizens and stop complaining. It may be good to complain, it can even be useful sometimes, but all our energy and efforts should not be concentrated on complaining.
Leaders are not our be all and end all. They may be at the head of the country, but they are far from being at the head of our lives. We need to get that. We need to find ways to go round them and do our best for our countries and our people to prosper. The use of technology is only one example among several.
We can rebuild our nations ourselves, with our own hands. We can help ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, our cities and our countries through our work. We are citizens, and citizens are the core of nations. They have the obligation to take care of their fellow citizens and to work for the development of their country. Patriotism can be adapted to situations. The most important thing is for it to exist. Young Zimbabweans got that and are implementing it through their new form of patriotism. All we have to do is to follow their lead.
Photo: Lost Tribe Magazine
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