EL-SISI ‘WOKE’ TO GEN­ER­A­TIONAL, GEN­DER MIX

Sunday Tribune - - JUSTICE - VIC­TOR KGOMOESWANA @Vic­torafrica Vic­tor Kgomoeswana is the author of a me­dia com­men­ta­tor and pub­lic speaker on African busi­ness af­fairs.

FOUR days in Egypt this past week, and it was hard to not think back to 2011 – the year of the Egyp­tian Revo­lu­tion of Dig­nity, com­monly called the Arab Spring. My col­league and I were at Jomo Keny­atta In­ter­na­tional Air­port, in Kenya, in tran­sit. Air­port staff kept on ask­ing us if we were bound for Cairo. Our an­swer, in em­phatic uni­son, was the same ev­ery time: no! We were go­ing to Jo­han­nes­burg, as far from Cairo as pos­si­ble.

Satur­day, it was, Fe­bru­ary 5, about 12 days into the Arab Spring – Egypt Edi­tion. Be­hind us in the queue, as we des­per­ately de­clared that Egypt was not where we were headed, was a young Egyp­tian man. Des­ti­na­tion Cairo, Tahrir Square, to join his com­pa­tri­ots – was beck­on­ing. For some­one fly­ing into a ter­ri­tory of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty and vi­o­lence, he was too ex­cited and vis­i­bly self-as­sured.

It was time for the new Egypt, he said to us, in which young Egyp­tians would save their home­land from ob­so­les­cence. Melt­ing into the board­ing gate traf­fic, he turned to us and shouted: just watch what is go­ing to hap­pen in the next 10 days! His pre­dic­tion proved more than ac­cu­rate. In less than 10 days, the 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak ended. Egypt be­came the sec­ond North African coun­try to suc­cumb to the Arab Spring af­ter Tu­nisia.

The Arab Spring was co-or­di­nated mainly on­line, a ter­ri­tory young peo­ple are com­fort­able in. It was this youth­ful­ness of the revo­lu­tion that took me to Egypt this past week, for the sec­ond time in 11 months, to at­tend the sec­ond World Youth Fo­rum (WYF).

An­other di­men­sion of the Arab Spring in Egypt was fem­i­nism.

Both youth and women were ev­i­dent in the WYF, held in Sharm El-sheikh. For in­stance, of the 10 peo­ple who co-or­di­nated my travel, ac­com­mo­da­tion, pro­gramme prepa­ra­tion, brief­ing and so on, only one was a man. Game, set, match, women of Egypt.

Po­lice pres­ence, the sym­bol of re­pres­sion dur­ing the Arab Spring, was still vis­i­ble but more to se­cure the del­e­gates and main­tain or­der. More than 6 000 del­e­gates from var­i­ous coun­tries hon­oured the in­vi­ta­tion of Pres­i­dent Ahmed Fat­teh El-sisi to par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions about the fu­ture of Egypt and Africa.

My panel dis­cus­sion was ti­tled: Agenda 2063 – the Africa we want. Through­out the four days, El-sisi was vis­i­ble and con­vinc­ing in his in­tent to make the voice of youth and women heard. To his credit, El-sisi ap­peared “woke” – to quote the slang of to­day’s youth – to the ur­gency of gen­er­a­tional and gen­der mix.

Not many African heads of state are re­spon­sive to this global mega­trend. Ex­cept for Rwanda, there are not many other African coun­tries on my radar for their ac­tive in­volve­ment of young peo­ple in the af­fairs of their gov­ern­ments.

Not that young peo­ple in­her­ently make bet­ter lead­ers; and they could al­ways use coun­sel from el­ders.

Still, by mak­ing sure that they are as ac­tive as they are in the busi­ness of their coun­try, El-sisi prob­a­bly dis­tin­guished his legacy and set his coun­try on an ir­re­versible path to a younger pres­i­dent when he leaves of­fice – both as head of state and when he takes over from Paul Kagame at the helm of the African Union. We could use more like him.

Africa is Open for Busi­ness,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.