On the 2nd and 3rd of December 2020 the All-Africa Students Union (AASU) virtual held its 9th Africa Students and Youth Summit (ASYS) under the theme: building back better in a connected world, lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and the critical role of young people and global solidarity. ACCORD’s executive director Dr Vasu Gounden gave remarks during the opening sessions and in a one-on-one breakaway session discussing the impact of COVID-19 on elections in Africa.
The opening session was addressed by Dr Gounden, Professor Goski Alabi and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Kailash Satyarthi. Professor Alabi argued that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a need to embrace technology and that rapid change will accompany the pandemic. It is therefore important for young people to prepare for the future and ensure that Africa takes a more prominent place in the global world order. Dr Satyarthi that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis, but also a crisis of justice, equality and civilisation. The onus is thus on the older generations to embrace the change that young people will bring with them, while encouraging the youth to ensure that the world comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic a more compassionate world with a sense of global responsibility.
In his remarks, Dr Gounden spoke of how, when granted independence from colonial rule, African leaders were given the task of rebuilding Africa. This burden is once again being passed on to the youth of Africa, to rebuild the African continent. The COVID-19 pandemic is only going to exacerbate the burden that is being passed on to Africa’s youth. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the world is not adequately prepared for pandemics, with many African countries being saddled with greater debt as a result of greater spending needed to tackle the pandemic. Africa is set to enter into a recession, which has greater repercussions on public spending that African countries undertake in areas such as education and healthcare. Dr Gounden went on to highlight that this health crisis will lead to an economic crisis which will lead to a security crisis which will in term lead to a humanitarian crisis. As such it is important for young people to become the architects of society and lead Africa out of the impact of COVID-19.
On the topic of elections in Africa during COVID-19, Dr Gounden spoke of the need for competitive, multiparty elections in Africa. However, the restrictions on movement and ban on rallies in many African countries has made it difficult for political parties to campaign and build momentum in the lead up to elections. Political parties have had to adapt to COVID-19 realties and do most of their election campaigning on the internet, social media and on televisions and radio stations. In regards to television and radio, Dr Gounden highlighted that it is important for electoral commissions to ensure that political parties have equitable access to these resources and prevent a situation where one party has greater access to radio and television time that others. Finally, it is important to exercise the right to vote, therefore voting during COVID-19 needs to be done in a responsible manner and in adherence to health guidelines.
ACCORD’s attendance and participation in this Summit contributes to the overall institutional objective, that is to strengthen and foster leadership skills of youth in peace, security and development initiatives across Africa.