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Introducing GYAN's Essay Book: "The Africa We're Creating"

Published: Tuesday, 03 Jul 2018
Author: Global Youth Advancement Network
Department: Office of the Dean

Time and time again, we are reminded of the prevailing African narrative—one of poverty, hunger, and sickness. The whole truth is often left out of these stories, failing to recognize the continent's potential with its rich natural resources, innovative agricultural methods, and most importantly, its youth population.

Africa is the youngest continent in the world, with 60 percent of its population under the age of 25. It is calculated that Africa's youth population alone will reach 500 million by 2060. Why, then, are the youth and their ideas and passion for change omitted from the African narrative?

In an effort to mobilize the voices of African youth, Michigan State University's Global Youth Advancement Network (GYAN) and Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) hosted an essay contest for African youth during the summer of 2017. Titled "The Africa We're Creating," the contest encouraged youth to describe their vision for Africa, and consider what role they must play in order to achieve it. The contest asked participants to focus on one of six themes related to African development: agri-food systems; water, energy, and environment; youth empowerment; health and nutrition; education; and culture. African citizens between the ages of 15-24 were eligible to submit an essay.

By the end of the contest, GYAN and AAP received over 250 essay submissions representing 20 African nations. A panel of six judges awarded prizes to the top three essayists overall: Tricia Mawire, Kalisa Ndamage, and Oluchi Okparaocha. Though just three authors received prizes-in-kind for their work, GYAN and AAP received many insightful essays that gave important perspective about issues that Africa faces today. As such, the Global Youth Advancement Network is publishing a book that will showcase 50-70 additional essays.

The essays presented in the book highlight the youth perspective on issues facing the continent, as well as youth-designed initiatives and solutions to address these issues. Essay authors share their ideas for global collaboration and methods that will help Africa develop into a prosperous continent. Reading and understanding the youth's insights and experiences allows us to better grasp the complexities of the continent, while also providing stakeholders with modern approaches to tackle the challenges.

As the largest population in Africa, the youth are experiencing these challenges daily, and they have valuable suggestions for improving environmental, political, economic, and cultural conditions. It is essential that their voices are not only included, but leading the conversation about the next steps Africa must take to reach its full potential. These essays signal a new era of engagement in Africa—where the voices of young people are the driving force behind the partnerships, strategies, and vision that move the continent forward.