I had the privilege to share the stage with Jon Gosier, country-mate Elizabeth Ngonzi, and Samuel Gebru at the UNICEF offices in New York yesterday afternoon. The topic of the two panel discussions was “Africa’s Children: Future Leaders of Innovation in the Post 2015 World”
After I left the panel, I found myself at a Crumbs Bakery next Grand Central Station. I bought a cupcake and a cup of tea and thought about the discussion we just had. As the dizzying pace of New York City life streamed on the sidewalk, a few things started playing themselves over and over again.
The pace of life in New York is underpinned by a human desire to continually develop and enhance their status. Worker bees spend upwards of 10-12 hours a day here (if not more!) dedicated to the task of “moving up in the world.” Any given New York sidewalk represents a slice of the global work force. Depending on where in New York you are, more nationalities pass through a single square meter of sidewalk than Schiphol or LaGuardia airports. The world descends on New York to pursue opportunity, a new life, a new start and to make a name for themselves. I’d stretch that further and posit that humanity congregates in urban centers around the world for similar pursuits.
I realized that panel discussions at legacy development institutions like UNICEF are a complete waste of resources. The solutions needed to solve the million dollar question of what happens in post 2015 Africa is already in play. Africa is already planning it’s post 2015 strategy. It looks very much like it’s post 2012 strategy. It’s called hustle. The collective effort of African youth (as exemplified by the ones I encounter at tech hubs like iHub in Nairobi and Hive Colab, and in remote villages, combined with the entrepreneurial & financial input from Africa’s Diaspora, is enough to answer the post 2015 scenario soul searching.
Gebru’s passionate elucidation of Ethiopia’s rise from poverty poster child in 1985 to one of the fastest growing economies in the world added gravitas to the conversation. Indeed this is the trend. Slow it may be but it is the trend.
Africa began rising long before the development elite launched discussions about what to do after the MDGs ran out in 2015. Africa’s daily hustle at the corner of Namirembe and Allen Street in Kampala is about building tomorrow, much in the same way that New York’s daily hustle is about staying a step ahead of yesterday. To see Africa’s tomorrow, pay attention to what is happening today; youth in every geographic and economic strata on the continent are embracing their role in a post-2015 world.
Africa is taking the reigns, and it is palatable. I now believe that much of the consternation at development organizations working at the intersection of the MDGs and Africa is about what their role is in a post 2015. From what I see, Africa’s development is no longer an agenda set by any particular UN agency. It’s an agenda set by every African who rises up in the morning, turns on their cell phone to see how the rest of the world is doing, and gets to work building a better tomorrow.