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“Pan-Africanism will always be relevant for as long as our efforts to create and implement African solutions are under-cut by the involvement of the West”
06 June 2017

Nontobeko Tshabalala  
AU Youth Volunteer from Swaziland
Serves with the African Union Commission, Bureu of the Chairperson as:
Communications Associate in the Bureu of the Chairperson 
Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

The first thing my father said to me when he heard I had applied to be a volunteer at the African Union Commission was ‘oh wow sisi, why?’ We had conversations about it and he began to see it as I did – as an opportunity for growth. I know a lot of people wondered why I would leave a job for a volunteer position but for perspective I want to share a few of my reasons below and hopefully inspire someone else to pack it in for a year and spend time growing yourself in spaces you didn’t you’d reach until you were at least 35 (at least that was me). I’ll structure it in Q&A format so it is easy to follow.


Q: Why did you want to become and African Union Youth volunteer?

A: Volunteering is mostly about providing a service to communities or groups which need it and I strongly believe my involvement at whatever level will uplift myself and the communities I work and exist in. The time has never been more fertile for Africans to come together to improve each other’s living conditions or contribute to continental development. I want to make a difference even if it is to one life and have the same happen to me. I always relish the possibility of learning new things and I envisioned that my skills and experience in communications and journalism would be effectively used to give women and youth, specifically, a voice.

Q: Why were you the best for the programme?

 A: I am passionate about three things; Africa, people and writing. Being able to bring those three things together in the service of my continent will always be the most rewarding thing to me. I would love the opportunity to give back and to foster development in the continent. I am a dedicated hard worker and my focus is unrivalled especially with things I care deeply about such as the growth of Africa being steered by Africans. I am very adaptable and always eager to learn on the job. As a young person myself am privy to the challenges we face and with a focus on positive change as the end goal I always couple my skills with my passion to make a difference.

Q: What skills do you have to offer?

A: I am passionate about communications and having African stories being told by Africans. This relentless and unapologetic vision has seen me do this in my country in this very column, the opportunity to do it at continental level would be incredibly rewarding. I am motivated and extremely goal-oriented. I don’t believe in excuses, barring death the job must always get done. My social skills make it easy for me to work with other people and I am always eager to impart and extract knowledge from others. I am also very social media savvy and even participated in the Twitter conversation under the hashtag #AUID15 at the 3rd Intergenerational Dialogue of Youth and Pan African Parliament in 2015 with Twitter attributing the first tweet to my account; the hashtag eventually trended in South Africa – the host country.

Q: What does youth development and empowerment mean to you?

A: They mean equipping today’s youth with enough knowledge and opportunities to allow them to step into leadership roles in the future. I believe one of Africa’s biggest problems is the lack of succession plans, in that current leaders aren’t investing enough in the youth to be able to pass on that baton to them when the time comes. This gap means we will constantly be looking outward to solve internal problems. In my experience the youth is extremely capable and willing to learn and do the work, focusing on its development and empowerment means that everybody wins. I believe my role as a member of African youth is to be a solution provider and that will be contributed to by robust engagement between the youth and adults.

Q: What does pan-africanism mean to you and is it still relevant today?

A: Pan-Africanism will always be relevant for as long as our efforts to create and implement African solutions for African problems are under-cut by the involvement of the West. It means we need to continue being unapologetic for how we protect the continent and its people. We have to recognise the power of our unity and how that will realise our collective growth. So many of the world’s economies are impressive because they were built on the backs of Africans, we need to not shy away from that power. Africa is only as strong as her people and that is a strength often left out of the history books. It means creating opportunities where Africans are telling their own stories and creating their own economies.

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