News & Media / In conversation with... Abdoulie Janneh

In conversation with... Abdoulie Janneh

20 December, 2021

On 15 December, Foundation board member Abdoulie Janneh was joined by members of our Now Generation Network (NGN) to discuss what young Africans think about the challenges of regional integration for the continent, the benefits they hope to see from greater continental integration and the role they want to play in advancing this project.

The conversation began with Abdoulie Janneh underscoring the significance of continental integration - as the most determinant factor for Africa to meet its political, social and economic aspirations - with a pan African vision set out by the African Union in the Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. He reminded all that regional integration has been on the agenda since 1963, when the Organisation of African Unity was formed, however very marginal progress has been made.

The NGN members expressed concern around the language used when speaking about regional integration. They assert that the conversation is too technical, and far removed from the current reality that implementation is a challenge. They strongly suggest that when we think about regional integration, we first have to ensure that we’re interpreting it and translating it to young Africans in a way that relates and reflects their everyday lives.

What does trade mean to young Africans? This demographic are trading and shopping online. As a Kenyan resident I am unable to ship goods ordered online directly from my neighbouring country, Tanzania. We need to enable and open those markets, we need to think digitally.

~Natasha Kimani, Now Generation Network member

Another concern expressed by the group was around travel and working in the continent, which they say isn’t easy for young Africans. They urge that for there to be greater regional integration, it is important to create conducive environments where young Africans can thrive across borders. Currently this appears impossible because of prohibitive costs and restrictive policies.

One of the most frustrating things about being in Africa is the fact that it takes a lot of paperwork to travel across the continent. We can’t talk about trade or investments without talking about how to move more easily across the continent. Why shouldn’t we have a 30-to-90-day free travel to all African countries? I find people my age, under 30, would rather decide to take their holiday in Europe because they say, “why should I have to queue for a visa to travel within my own continent?”

~Aane Adeoye, Now Generation Network member

The NGN members also tackled the subject of xenophobia. They say it is important to begin shifting the narrative instead of thinking about other Africans in a negative way, a sense of kinship should be fostered.

These are some of the issues the NGN cohort call attention to. Before we address the beautiful and larger picture of regional integration, and begin to ripe the benefits of the AfCFTA we must be honest about our national governments, and with the help of regional organisations, create conducive environments for other Africans to come live, work peacefully in our countries.

This conversation is part of the Foundation’s In conversation with… series, which is connecting young Africans and the Foundation’ leadership around issues that matter most to the continent’s youth.

Watch the conversation:

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