On Tuesday 17th September 2013, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences of Makerere University in Uganda together with the World Youth Alliance (WYA) organized a public lecture with the theme ‘Re-Thinking Africa’s Sustainable Development Agenda’. The lecture was geared towards educating the participants on Sustainable Development from an African perspective and highlighting where the primary focus needs to be placed. Students, academic staff, alumni and WYA Members in Uganda attended the lecture. Makere University is East Africa’s best university and Africa’s fourth best university.
The first speaker was Prof. Edward Kirumira specializes in Population and Health and is currently the Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere University. He proposed that to have sustainable development there has to be environmental, economic and socio-political sustainability. He emphasized that the youth are to be at the center of the sustainable development agenda. He further emphasized that if young people’s resources of energy, knowledge and time are misdirected towards violence, wars, corruption and other vices then we will have a problem in the society. Young people need to work to have better education, political support, resources and hope. There is a need to reflect on our education structures, infrastructures, health systems and many more development issues that need to be sustainable and see how the youths can be a mobilizing resource.
Prof. Josephine Ahikire, lecturer at the Makerere University Department of Women and Gender Studies in the field of feminist theory gender and politics, livelihood and cultural studies and also an active member of the Uganda Women’s Movement was another main speaker at the lecture. Prof. Ahikire emphasized on the human and physical aspect of development. She argued that the language of Sustainable Development currently still has less focus on human accountability and the much desired social change. She emphasized that, "to have development we need to focus on the human person as the center."
She further mentioned that the solutions to Africa’s problems are upon Africans themselves, that the poverty we have in not because of lack of resources but the way in which people use them, including political structures and governance. According to her, people should be looked at as citizens, who have rights and dignity and not as beneficiaries or vulnerable groups. The problems such as corruption and unemployment need to be addressed by the citizens and an inclusive approach needs to be incorporated. This agenda should include all the citizens as actors. The role of gender equality in development must be addressing institutional culture at the community level down to the family. This is because family is important in nurturing individuals in the community. Being gender inclusive means giving people space to exercise their rights and for development to be sustainable. Rights are to be protected by both the state and family. She concluded by saying that Africans need to change the narrative to attain sustainable development.
This was followed by contributions from the audience. There was a clear idea of the need to include young people in this continued debate on the Sustainable Development Agenda.
Young people were urged to make the right choices and act upon sustainable development as individuals first so as to prepare a collective response towards it.
This lecture took place as one of the events timed during a WYA Africa two-week visit to Uganda to bring its noble mission to the Pearl of Africa.