Young People are the greatest asset for Africa

                                                  Delegates at the Youth Civil Servant Hackathon, South Africa

‘We have something that the rest of the world doesn’t have, and it is not the minerals on the ground, that is the easy stuff, that is the lazy stuff.  The one thing that Africa is the younger generation, the human capital. And we must create the space and opportunity, for young people to feel they can bring their full selves and their capability. If we do that, there is no limit to what we can achieve”- Maria Ramos, Commissioner, Pathways for Prosperity Commission Technology and Inclusive Development

On 6th December 2018, 29 fellow young leaders from Southern Africa and I attended the Pathways for Prosperity Commission Technology and Inclusive Development’s -Young civil servants hackathon in Johannesburg, South Africa. The policy hackathon brought together young people passionate about public service delivery from Southern Africa. The hackathon facilitated the exchange of experiences and ideas on government modernisation among young or future civil servants to develop a shared vision of technology-enabled government.

Pathways Commission’s Secretariat and Academic Director Benno Ndulu set the ball rolling with his opening remarks. In his remarks Ndulu, he stated that people fear technology because it leads to extinction of some jobs. Ndulu argued that even though technology does render some jobs redundant, the same technology creates a new set of jobs.

‘Usually, the jobs that technology creates are more as compared to the ones that it made redundant.’-said Ndulu

                                                    Gloria Chua Facilitating the Design thinking workshop

Facilitated by Gloria Chua, a human centered product and interaction designer, we spent the day, working to address challenges in health and legal system. In the six groups, we tackled digitizing access to legal aid, digitizing data in health system and ways to minimize substance abuse among the youth. We used design thinking method to understand the heart of the problem, coming up with a clear and succinct problem statement, generating a persona to ideate solutions and lastly prototyping and group presentations.

                                                                                                           Group Work

In this hackathon, two groups were working on one challenge. What was fascinating was that the two groups came up with different solutions to address the same challenge. Something that challenges the mindset that there is only one way to address one social problem. The truth of the matter is, there are multiple pathways that can be taken to address the same problem.  What we need therefore as young people is to be open-minded to see and explore the pathways that seem not to be explored in public service delivery.

After going through the hackathon, I found the design thinking model to be very useful. I was amazed to see how my group came up with 51 ideas on how to digitize access to legal aid in Namibia in less than 20 minutes . I therefore plan to hold workshops with the young people in secondary school and tertiary in Malawi to allow them to appreciate the designing thinking model and hopefully adopt in to address challenges in their schools and communities.

                                                                          Maria Ramos, giving a keynote address

Maria Ramos, Pathways for Prosperity Commission Technology and Inclusive Development Commissioner, concluded the Policy Hackathon with a powerful key note address. Maria argued that Africa is lagging in the fourth industrial revolution. She further argued that Africa has vast opportunities. For Africa to catchup in the fourth industrial revolution and utilise the vast opportunities it has, Africa needs the energy and the creativity, the capability, the commitment, the boldness, the richness, the innovation, and the creativity of the younger generation.

‘Africa is not going to reach its full potential, unless we take advantage of Africa’s greatest resource, its young population.’-Declared Maria

The Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development- launched in January 2018-works with talented and diverse group of commissioners who are global leaders from government, the private sector and academia. The Commission aims to catalyse new conversations and to encourage the co-design of country-level solutions aimed at making frontiers technologies work for the benefit of the world’s poorest and most marginalized men and women.

The commission is managed and hosted by Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government.

Photo Credit: Pathways Commission/JLP South Africa 2018