What kind of Africa do we want? One that is peaceful, prosperous and is a global player, with our youth leading the way, empowered and creative, analytical and courageous, visionaries… right?

I write this in my home country, South Africa, which is currently wracked with racial incidents and racial hatred in social media commentary in response to these incidents. A bumpy start to the year. It’s possible to become disillusioned or swayed from our path towards the African Renaissance. But, I am a YMCA person and I believe in Africa and I believe there is hope. There is indeed hope. And this is what our Africa we Want programme is all about. Hope and belief in the future of Africa. We are guided by Agenda 2063, the African Union development plan for the continent. It gives us structure around which to plot the way forward.

The African YMCA movement is in the second year now of the Africa we Want programme. Last year, YMCAs in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa and Ghana made great impact in their countries by training young people using our Subject to Citizen (S2C) change model which transforms young people into active citizens who engage in community action to make positive change in their environments. We also created a great new partnership with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) to begin at a continental level to think through and act on youth challenges across Africa. A particular high point was direct engagement with the African Union and a willingness for us to work together on Agenda 2063. Of importance, the African YMCA movement celebrated African Youth Day, and we will continue to lobby for Africa to celebrate this day as an important event during the year, as it is about African pride. This year, we now bring on board YMCAs in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo, Cameroun, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Together, the African YMCA movement will continue to ensure that young people are empowered to lead the way in decision-making spaces. Each young person we work with is transformed. They in turn transform others. Together, they make positive change. This is the hope that keeps us moving forward.

By Gil Harper, AAYMCA

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