Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Africa’s youth must continue the struggle of great leaders


Perhaps we must weep every time we speak about the African continent because there is no other place in the world that has faced the same atrocities as this continent of ours. 

Africa was colonised and suffered brutally under the unrelenting hand of imperialism. The history of Africa is one of pain and suffering, engineered by countries and people who saw us as below-beings who could be violated with impunity. 

They saw the lands of our forefathers as some terra nullius that they could demarcate, plunder and destroy at will. 

The truth is that it is not because of the indigenous people of Africa that we are divided into countries the way we are. A group of white people sat in Berlin in 1884-1885 and decided that they would determine the fate of African people. 

Not only this but they also decided to shun our gods and give us theirs. They disrespected our ways of being and force-fed us theirs. They stripped us of our languages and our culture. 

Today we are still suffering because of a crisis that we neither created nor benefited from as a continent. 

But, despite all of this, wounded as it may be, Africa still stands. That means we have the capacity to resist and it means that we do have something to offer the world. 

Perhaps it is also important to mention that the history of Africa does not begin with slavery and colonisation or apartheid. We have a history that precedes these moments (even though they have gone on to affect our lives immensely).  

We had systems of government and order. We had ways to co-exist, trade and organise ourselves as a people. Africa was not a dark continent devoid of orderly life as it has been depicted by those who colonised us. 

It is important to internalise this because if we have a past it means that we are capable of having a future that is radically different from the present. 

This is a future where Africa is united, where borders are not justification for discrimination against fellow Africans. 

This is a future where those from this continent actively participate in the economy and own the resources of their land. 

An acknowledgement of these facts can help us move away from a nihilist approach and start thinking about how Africa can be a better continent. 

We have ancestors who demonstrated to us that if we fully commit ourselves to the complete liberation of our continent then it is possible. The likes of Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso) and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) and many others laid a foundation. The onus is now on us, especially the youth, to continue what they began. 

The need to be united as Africans does not only stem from the fact that we share a geographical location but because we share similar experiences. This is to say that what the people of Nambia went through is not that much different from what South Africans have endured. 

We must unite, regardless of which countries we come from. 

We must not unite only to discuss, but also to take action. For too long we have been discussing and not demonstrating through action. We can no longer rely on other people to solve our problems. We must organise ourselves, create and make a difference. 

Africa is not just a continent after all — it is our country. 

Mcebo Dlamini is a former Wits SRC president. He is also an activist, constantly trying to bridge the chasm between theory and praxis. He is interested in social justice and is a committed scholar of Black studies

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Mcebo Dlamini
Mcebo Dlamini
Mcebo Dlamini is a former president of the students’ representative council at the University of the Witwatersrand

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Environmental groups welcome China’s pledge on coal

Will China’s end of coal finance be the final nail in the coffin for MMESZ?

More top stories

Environmentalists are trying to save South Africa’s obscure endangered species

Scientists are digging for De Winton’s golden moles, working on the mystery of the riverine rabbit and using mesh mattresses to save the unique Knysna seahorse

Shadow states infest Africa’s democracies

Two recent reports show evidence that democracy in Africa is being threatened by private power networks

The West owes Africa $100bn (at least) for climate recovery

In fewer than three days, a US citizen emits as much carbon as a person from Chad or Niger does in one year. Such is the asymmetry in culpability for climate change.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…