Are governments and youth on the same page?

Author:Odinga, Winnie
Position:Basic service delivery and educated African millennials

Africa is on a two-speed track--the youth are moving as fast as their compatriots elsewhere in the world, while states seem to be still stuck in yesterday. How can we square this circle?

"Why are you not moving?" An impatient voice shrieks.

"Where are you?"

An equally irritated voice barks back.

"Why don't you just follow the pin?!"

Jackie angrily hangs up and tosses her Iphone X on her bed. She, like many young people, has become an expert map reader and just by glancing at her screen, she can locate her Uber driver but he never seems to quite get to her.

Granted, it's not always the driver's fault; the lack of adequate road signage and clarity creates a lot of confusion. Telling the Uber driver to stop at the black gate under the Jacaranda tree is a much more efficient way of giving directions in Africa than giving a street name and number.

If you hang around millennials in urban centres around the continent, you will hear a lot of other similar complaints. The technological vortex if you will: a relatively well-travelled, exposed, and educated generation, moving too 'fast' for the continent. Two different worlds occupying the same space and time.

Millennials have all the latest technology, stream international TV series and movies on their laptops and tablets, begin businesses from their Instagram accounts, find entertainment in celebrity gossip and shop online from their phones. In other words, they are "clocked in and loaded".

The educated young African is struggling to function on a continent that is being held back by its past. A somewhat cultural distaste for technology, a poor infrastructure and the lacklustre inclusion of technology in education are leading factors in the lag.

The exchange with the Uber driver, the power company or the internet service provider about the unacceptable quality of their service delivery makes for an alltoo-often-heard cry of frustration around the continent.

Customers wait interminably during a call to a customer service representative only to be met with the answer that "service is down and we don't know when it will return." Translation, "Your guess is as good as mine."

Still in the Stone Age?

The situation around the world reminds me of a car race. While African youth are struggling, working their feet to the bone in a Fred Flintstone-era vehicle, our counterparts around the world are cruising in an air-conditioned Tesla. (Fred Flintstone is an American cartoon character living in the Stone Age.)


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