Heart of Arts

Africa Will Never Fail! Acceptance Speech Upon Receiving the D.Phil., University of Pretoria

Toyin Falola

The University of Pretoria, I am grateful.

It is on your behalf—graduates, the youths that will transform us—that I receive this degree. Let me assure you that Africa will never fail! Africa’s history is bound in excellence, and the future promises more abundance. The youth are our number one asset. To date, our achievements know no bounds. This moment is filled with more than hope. However, our past and present are not devoid of challenges and obstacles, but we shall overcome them with you and our growing demographics and culture. Africa is synonymous with resilience, which is evident in our past. Our unwavering determination will guide us towards the future, in which we not only engage in global discourse but also have prominence in the world. To our graduates, once again, this is a reminder that your education is more than just facts and curious minds; it is the pathway to enlightenment.

You are at the core of the connection between our past and the future, to flourish in our cultural heritage, and to ensure the success of your generation and the ones to come after. It should be noted that through your accomplishments, ground-breaking ideas, and your determination for an improved society, you will shape the future we envisioned. Through your efforts, our advancement will know no bounds and be assured of positive changes. As we embark on this momentous journey together, let us embrace the endless possibilities that await us.

This day marks a significant moment for the future, which is not just a wishful aspiration; it is reality, which has begun now and will lead us to the future of our promise. The culture of resilience is central to our vast heritage; in our journey, our cultural diversity is unmatched anywhere else in the world. In our diversity, apparent in our landscape, languages, traditions, and customs, we have existed and continue to breathe them in a harmonious circle. Our resilience is prevalent in the preservation of culture, traditions, and customs in diverse and different regions of the continent. Despite obstacles of the slave trade, colonialism, apartheid, and prevalent neo-colonialism, we have prevailed.

Our endurance in the face of encountering countless obstacles, as noted above, has not deterred us from triumph up till this moment. This is obvious as we have navigated the slave trade, the colonial era, and the struggle for independence and freedom; our resilience stands tall. Amidst past obstacles and challenges, Africa has stood the test of the aftereffects of the past eras and is currently dealing with the realities of economic challenges, but with you, we will triumph. I must say to you, as graduating students, it is incumbent upon you to tap into our rich history of resilience, unity, and culture to establish stable connections and collaborations beyond borders and promote a sense of unified effort amidst global presence. Therefore, you must combine the wisdom of history to guide the advancement of tomorrow and to foster a prosperous and harmonious Africa; in this regard, your resilience is important.

By recognizing and embracing the various dimensions of our journey towards stable economic progress, it is important to embrace our economic prowess. Africa has witnessed a significant surge in economic growth and development, marked by the culmination of urbanization, investments, and the emerging tech industry; we must not relent. While Africa is often linked to economic challenges, our economic transformations are beyond mere numbers and statistics, embedded in the ability to create new possibilities, positively shaping the society, and to move beyond the conventional economic challenges that have been linked to the continent. One of the crucial changes is the innovative ideas in the tech sector, especially in countries like South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria; with impressive growth, African tech start-ups are gathering great investments, adding to the growth of the economy, without disregarding other important sectors such as mining, agriculture, entertainment, tourism, and manufacturing, which are also key drivers of economic growth in different African countries. Start-ups in Africa are not only creating jobs but also contributing to tax revenue and attracting foreign investment, signalling hope for the continent. The substantial increase in employment opportunities generated by funded start-ups underscores their beneficial influence on African economies.

Presented with a multitude of prospects, you are motivated to contribute to the knowledge shifts and economic transformations. As individuals, you have all it takes to excel in various endeavours, such as academia, entrepreneurship, and agriculture, and to contribute to their advancements. Remember, education is not just about garnering technical skills; it encompasses a deeper comprehension of how to navigate different challenges and obstacles. You are responsible for cohesion and social development on the continent. The advancement of the continent in all ramifications is a priority, and the continent is in your hands. By recognizing your social responsibilities as individuals, you will contribute by making deliberate decisions, calling for inclusiveness, and participating in governance for a better and advanced society.

Invariably, your education is key for both job creation and contributing to the ever-increasing workforce of the continent. Your innovative ideas and entrepreneurship endeavours are no small measure key to addressing the level of unemployment in the continent. Tackling these challenges requires strategic planning that integrates investments in education and skills; this is not the job of the government alone. Your participatory level in leadership is of importance, as effective and good leadership is a recipe for a stable present and future. We must not shy away from the reality that numerous African countries are facing, ranging from institutional failure and bad governance; this is evident in the political instability, corruption, injustice, and ineffective public administration that plague numerous African countries. This shows that good governance, when evasive, automatically leads to underdevelopment and instability.

When you seek leadership positions, look inward and find the determination to improve the well-being of your compatriots. The wisdom of the past will encourage the important characteristics of great African leaders of the past. Look into Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba as the personalities of African resiliency and self-determination, and to Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere. Remember Nelson Mandela and one of his famous attributed quotes: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Other notables like Cheikh Anta Diop, Molefi Kete Asante, and Thabo Mbeki, among other great leaders of Africa, have shown dignified leadership and intellectual prowess in various endeavours. For many African nations, the struggle for a unified and prosperous community has been impeded by leadership crisis and political instability. Graduating students, once again, look inward and learn from the wisdom of history. To become the next generation of leaders, embracing the mantle of ethical leadership and contributing to good governance presents both a significant challenge and a remarkable opportunity.

I want to reiterate that the youths are not only the catalysts for change but the ‘cream’ of society. Africa boasts a huge population of youths, and this demographic trend offers both opportunities and challenges, which place the youth at the helm of the continent’s development. According to Statista, as of 2023, Africa boasted the world’s youngest population among continents, with approximately 40 per cent of its inhabitants aged 15 years and below, in contrast to the global average of 25 per cent. In all sectors, the youth population has the potential to improve and contribute to the growth of the continent. Again, despite the urge to do more, African youths are making significant innovations in sectors that provide good healthcare and financial services. You must continue to advocate for democracy, transparency, and social justice.

I must point out that African youth are making notable strides in technology and entrepreneurship, with a burgeoning number of tech start-ups and innovations led by young minds addressing diverse challenges. These endeavours should be improved on to signify more than just commercial ventures. However, your influence must extend beyond the economic impact and be pivotal in propelling social and political change. Across various societies, you must continue to emerge as champions of democracy, transparency, and social justice, catalysing public discourse and prompting both societies and governments to reassess and reform established norms. As graduates, you are to become agents of change and trailblazers in your fields with a profound sense of responsibility. I urge you to harness your education, expertise, and creativity not solely for personal advancement but also for the betterment of your communities and the continent.

Remember, the future of Africa depends on You! Be ready to be a driving force for progress and transformation. Embrace your boundless potential with courage and resolve. Together, let’s build an Africa that fosters innovation, cherishes its heritage, and champions justice and equality. As you step beyond the four walls of this institution, carry the conviction that you possess the ability to make a substantial difference. May this day be etched in your hearts, not just for its academic significance, but as a beacon of hope and catalyst for change. And with you, Africa will never fail!





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