Transcript of Keynote Address by Danial Kabani
November 13, 2022

Thank you so much for that warm introduction. I am excited to be here this afternoon. Good afternoon to everybody present here. One of the things I do is team-building sessions for companies. So, let us see if we can do a little exercise before we dive into our presentation. Turn to your neighbour and stop scaring your neighbour, so turn to your neighbour and smile, is your neighbour looking less scary now? That is what it is supposed to be. Thank you so much for the elaborate introduction. Again, I will highlight that I am excited to be here with you. I have been listening to the different conversations from morning up to now, and I should mention that there is a lot of inspiration around here. A lot of great work is happening, and I truly believe that if we are going to invest in what we are sharing together here, the narrative of Africa is going to change.


I must highlight that we are the solutions we are waiting for. Right in this room is an amalgam of different solutions to different problems. I should probably begin with a little story by one Ghanaian scholar named Dr. Samuel Pipim who is an engineer and theologian who wrote a story about what he calls monkey solutions. He says one day, monkeys were up in a tree, and they were facing the coast. Suddenly, they see fish jumping in and out of the water, and the monkeys seated on the tree, realise that there is a disaster happening in the water. Then they said, “Look, the fish are drowning, we must go and rescue the fish, and the monkeys jumped into the water and started picking the fish out of the water, taking them to the shore. After that, they climbed back into the tree, gave each other a monkey high five, and said Job well done, we have rescued the fish. By the time they wake up, they are going to thank us. Unfortunately, the fish never woke up, because the monkeys introduced a monkey solution to a fish problem.


This sometimes, unfortunately, becomes a challenge when we want to solve challenges. Copy, cut, and paste kinds of solutions, which are not adapted to the environment to the things that are obtained have a way of turning into becoming monkey solutions. So right from the start, I would challenge you that we are meeting here, I presume for us to be able to not just copy and paste solutions from anywhere but to brainstorm and come up with home-tailored solutions to the problems that we are facing. I would like to read a quote by Oliver Tambo, you have Oliver Tambo airport around here, he says the children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, or a person that does not value its youth, and children does not deserve its future. When you do not value your youth, you do not deserve your future because youth are the future. The harvest of any farmer sits in its nursery, and it is the intent, concentration, and investment that you make in your nursery, that will determine your harvest.


This is why Africa must begin to pay particular attention to the youths because without investing much in the youths without paying attention to the youth, mentorship, and grooming, the future of Africa is doomed. It reminds me of a poem that was written by a youth activist in the name of Useni Eugene Perkins that I will read this afternoon, but I am going to rephrase it. The poem is ‘Hey Black Child’, but I will say, ‘Hey, African Youth’:
Do you know who you are, who you really are?
Do you know you can be what you want to be If you try to be what you can be?
Hey black child, do you know where you are going, where are you really going?
Do you know you can learn what you want to learn If you try to learn what you can learn?
Hey, African child do you know you are strong, I mean really strong?
Do you know you can do what you want to do if you try to do what you can do?
Hey African child, be what you can be, learn what you must learn, do what you can do and tomorrow, your nation will be what you want it to be!


This is what we must communicate with our youth, to begin to own the solutions that are being provided to their problems. I am happy that it is beginning to happen across the continent. As many speakers before me have highlighted, we should probably move away from a mentality where we expect solutions to be given to us. When I sit in a room such as this one, and I hear the suggestions that are being given, that gives me hope to know that much will be done in the near future, or probably even in the present, to change a lot of issues that are facing, especially our youths.


Statistics clearly indicate that we have a lot of youth. Between 10 and 12 million youths enter the workforce each year, here in Africa, but only 3.1 million jobs are created. What that tells us is that we are sitting on a timebomb, and if we do not address issues of employment, one of these days, that bomb will surely detonate. We are told that the vast majority, that is 90% of the youth in Africa, leave the education system and transition into the world without ever making it into universities. Of the 9% that enter University, only 6% graduate. That equally sounds like statistics that are announcing doom, and these are some of the things that we must change. You would, however, know that Africa has more than 400 million young people aged between 15 to 35. That is a huge population, and you know that our median age as Africans is around 20, which is something special because it tells you that the future globally will be around Africa.


If you look at the demographics in terms of population distribution, you are going to realise that for us, as in Africa, it is a pyramid. You have more young people and fewer elderly people. If you look at Europe, you are going to realise that it is an inverted pyramid with very few young people and many more elderly people. But the question to all of us here, our leaders across Africa, all the different organisations that support whatever is happening is, are we awake to this realisation? if we are not, then we are caught in danger because this population of young people, which is calculated to double by the year 2050, will look for solutions, and therefore we must begin to think of what to do. Policies are there that promote work that can be done for young people; community engagement, you name it, there is a lot that has been put on paper. You would know that in the African Union, we have the African Youth Charter, and we have the Youth Decade Plan of Action, which speaks to education, employment, entrepreneurship, governance, peace, security, and health. We also have The Malabo Decision on Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development. All these are things targeting Agenda 2063 to see how Africa can begin to empower its youth. So, the policies are there but then we might be on the end side of implementation or creating spaces for ourselves within the policy framework. The question is, are we doing that as we should?


What then is youth participation and why should youths participate? Some scholars say youth participation is a process of involving young people in institutions and decisions that affect their lives. That means young people must be involved, both at an institutional level and at any point where there is decision-making. Now why is this important? I must mention that there is another phenomenon called adult care. Now, adult caring is where the adults think they know it all. Therefore, they think they know what the young people need. Therefore, they plan for the young people without involving them. Now, it is true that there is a lot of wisdom in grey hair, and from the African context, we highly respect our elders because we see them as oases of wisdom. However, we must realise that moving forward will require collaboration between the elderly and the young. The wisdom of the elderly, and the energy, passion, and risk-taking behaviour of the youths. It is this collaboration and not antagonism that will move Africa forward. So, it is very important that we do not move on the side of adult caring, but truly engage young people in what they must do.


We should not look at young people as troubled and trebled. Oftentimes, when we look at youth, we say they are troubled by many things such as unemployment, drug abuse, and whatever else. So, we say they are the causes of trouble. We should see young people as assets. Those of you who love to read history would know that any revolution that has been on Earth was driven by the youth. Whether you talk of the Industrial Revolution or any other revolution that you can read about, youths were at the centre of it.


There are challenges that young people are facing currently, which make it hard for them to participate in anything, including philanthropy. Some of these challenges include, at the top, negative mindsets. Now, this negative mindset begins with the youth themselves, because they do not see themselves as a group that can effect change. Oftentimes, it is conditioning, there is a way that our society treats young people to the level that most of them lose faith in themselves and in what they can do. We must attend to that. Lack of support and mentorship are another thing. Sometimes when young people have ideas, they are not so sure of themselves and may need support, mentorship, and encouragement that what they are doing is the right thing. I want to believe that depending on what age you are, you have passed through that edge of uncertainty, where you doubt whether the career you have chosen is the right one, whether the person you want to marry is the right one, or whether it is the right time to have children. It is a stage of life. But within that same age bracket where you are still so uncertain about your decisions, which is usually a youth stage, it is when your potential is at its greatest. Whether it is physiological makeup, your brain, and mental power are at their best. Talk of physical strength, you are at your best, and yet, you are at your worst in terms of self-awareness. That is where collaboration now should come between the old and the young so that these young people can be guided.


Another challenge we may need to address as adults is when adults believe they are better and loathe the youths. We also need to address the lack of resources. This is where young people might see they might have dreams, visions, and plans of what they want to do, but may not have the resources to implement. There are many models across the world where you see young people doing different things that are changing their communities, including in the space of philanthropy. One scholar by the name of Richard writes and indicates that young people will often go through the following stages before they can become capable leaders to effect change in society. The first thing is they need to become aware, then gain experience, receive encouragement, and then they will grow confident. They will then develop practical skills, and finally, emerge as leaders.


Now, if this is true, it means there are certain interventions we can begin to make to help our youths. How can they become aware? It means we need to run awareness programmes. This is very critical. How can they gain experience? Oftentimes when young people apply to institutions, even when they want to volunteer, they will be told they need to have certain years of experience. A guy coming out of high school is told that he needs five years of experience, that is paradoxical. How do you have five years of experience in work if you are just coming out of high school? So, we need to create spaces where young people can volunteer. I am hoping that from the institutions you are coming from, you all have spaces through which young people can volunteer that will give them experience. They need to receive encouragement and how will this be possible? It is only possible if we are going to develop mentorship programmes.


As DNK, we have a number of mentorship programmes and one was highlighted here; the National Education Expo which is the culmination of youth that we have been mentoring. Throughout the year, we run programs to mentor young people in entrepreneurship, leadership, community engagement, and many other things. It is important that we begin to develop mentorship programmes.


If we want young people to be involved in philanthropy, then as institutions that are involved in the same, we must have mentorship programmes. Otherwise, when this generation is gone, we do not have hope for the next. So that is quite critical. Then for them to grow their confidence, they must be allowed space to try and fail. You know, there is a quote that says try and fail but do not fail to try. So let us allow young people to try and fail. Moreover, learning is in failing, we learn a lot more from failing than from success. Then for them to develop practical skills, we need to allow them to come up with youth-led initiatives and give them the space to do so. That is going to help our youths. But these youths also need to be educated. This is because there is a close tie between development and education, and if Africa is going to change its narrative, we need to pay attention to education. You would know that education does a number of things, it is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge and fostering skills and character building. That is what education does. It is important we know so because in 1961, we know that there was a convention, UNESCO came to an agreement that looking at education, we must grasp the concept that education is an investment in productivity. Education provision should be planned continuously in relation to manpower needs are all times.


Those of you who have done Development Studies would know that there are four main theories. We have the Classical Cyclic Theory, which was propagated mainly by the Greeks and the Romans, who believed that when you talk about development, what happens is that you know, things come, and things go nations come nations go – making development a cycle. Then you have the Augustine Christian theory that looks at doomsday and says, all development is going to end in some Doom one of these days. I want to concentrate on the last one, as I am winding up and it looks at what is called the Linear theory. It focuses on the fact that development is progressing, and things continue to improve. It is in this theory that around the 1950s, two economists analysed what is called the Gross National Product (GNP) of the US. As they tried to analyse the factors that were determining the GNP, they could not adequately account for the end of it. They realised they were failing to account for the residue of the GNP because it was directly related to the fact that there had been changes in the education system of the US, which increased their GNP.


There is a direct tie between development to education. Nations that educate their people see development. If Africa is going to develop, we must invest in the education of our young people. Currently, they are being challenged by a number of things. Access to education is a challenge in some of our countries, while some are improving in that. We also have another challenge, which is the challenge of quality access is one thing, quality is another, what is the quality of the education you are accessing? In some of the parts of Africa, not all, we have our young people still learning under trees. In some parts of Africa, we have young people walking over 10 kilometers every day in the morning and back, and these are little boys and girls, just to access education. These inequalities will not put us in the front seat. We must therefore choose to invest in the education of young people and in our teachers. Talking about our teachers, we must begin to see continuous professional development programmes. Right now, it is considered that once you graduate as a teacher, once a teacher always a teacher, no. The educated of today are the illiterate of tomorrow if they stop reading. We must understand that life is dynamic. What that means is that the challenges of tomorrow will not be solved with the solutions of today. I have observed when you are in the medical sector where I come from, you cannot renew your license without demonstrating that you actually went through continuous professional development every year. This is because we are now training young people who are facing a digital revolution. If these are going to be taught by teachers who graduated 30 years ago and have not improved their skills to be able to teach these young people skills that are relevant to this time, we will graduate young people who cannot solve today’s challenges.


I am hoping that from this group we will begin to see some of you getting into the spaces of supporting education across Africa through the programmes that we run, curriculum reviews, and updating the curriculums. There is a skills mismatch between what young people are learning and what the industry needs in excess of 10 years. That tells you that the majority of what our people are learning is somehow outdated. I am hoping that not only are we going to engage young people we can continue to promote philanthropy to support these young people. Thank you so much, it has been a pleasure.