Africa needs young‚ vibrant and innovative leaders: Graca Machel

25 February 2018 - 10:00 By Graeme Hosken
Graça Machel at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg on February 24 2018.
Graça Machel at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg on February 24 2018.
Image: ALON SKUY​

Africa's youth and women need to stand up and take charge as the continent's new leaders.

That was the message delivered by former first lady Graca Machel in Johannesburg on Saturday‚ at the African Leadership Academy (ALA).

"Africa does not need leaders who are 75 or 65 years old. We need leaders who are young‚ vibrant‚ innovative and who the continent's youth can relate to."

Machel‚ speaking at the 10-year celebration of ALA‚ called on Africa's emerging young leaders to remain committed to the cause for the development of Africa.

The celebrations saw some of Africa's brightest academic and economic minds discussing ways of uplifting the continent‚ through improved knowledge-based education systems‚ entrepreneurship development and human rights‚ healthcare and leadership programmes.

Machel‚ the widow of late president Nelson Mandela‚ said leadership was about integrity and values and making the choice to lead.

"Our youth must grasp the opportunity to lead. You must continuously check yourself to see that you are still committed to your values which make you want to be a leader."

She said the majority of those living in Africa were young people.

"Our continent has a large youth population‚ who are looking for leaders who they can relate to‚ who they believe will be honourable and committed‚ especially to public service.

"Our young leaders need to stand up and be counted. They need to embrace the knowledge of their elders‚ stand on their shoulders‚ and take up the challenge of leadership.

"The road will be long‚ it will be difficult‚ but they must have the courage to make the choices and sacrifices needed to serve."

She called on the youth to redefine Africa's identity.

The road will be long‚ it will be difficult‚ but they must have the courage to make the choices and sacrifices needed to serve.

"It can no longer be 'I'. That is not what leadership or Africa is about. Our continent is about its people‚ the 'we'‚ the collective.

"Women and youth have a major role to play in this redefining and development of our continent."

The problems around the role the youth and women had to play in leading Africa‚ said Machel‚ had to be solved today.

"We cannot let what many see as the problems of the future remain the problems for the future. We have to resolve them today.

"We need our women‚ our mothers‚ our sisters to be treated with dignity and respect they deserve‚ regardless of their age.

"For far too long‚ women have simply been seen as 'she' and inferior. Even with my age and the positions I have held‚ I have experienced this."

Machel called on the youth to find ways to cross the bridge where women were no longer seen as inferior‚ but were recognised for their brilliance and their capacity‚ "where they are treated for the respect and dignity which they deserve and where they are treated as human".

She said Africa's youth needed to connect with the continent's roots so that when they become global leaders they could still contribute to the development of Africa.

Lara Rabiu‚ ALA chief financial officer‚ said the event would lay the foundation for Africa's future leadership.

"The people here are builders of a thriving Africa. It is now time for our youth to take action and ownership of their future roles in our continent through leadership positions."

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