Former US president Barack Obama delivers the Nelson Mandela annual lecture at Wanderers Stadium, Gauteng. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Paying tribute to one of the 21 century’s greatest leaders when delivering the 16th Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg, former US President Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet on young people to chart a new course towards inclusive societies for sustainable livelihoods.

Describing young people as Hope carriers for the future, Obama urged the swelling contingent of African youth to honour Madiba’s vision for inclusivity, reconciliation, freedom and equal opportunity for all. Urging youth to spearhead positive change Obama admonished them to rattle the comfort zone of current leaderships, “keep believing in the vision; keep marching; keep building hope; raise your voice.”


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Here are 10 ways youth can lead the revolution for positive change:

1. Invest their time and energy in acquiring quality, solutions-based education that promotes critical and divergent thinking.

2. Carpe Diem. Seize the moment. Seize the opportunity to fight corruption, racism, crime, xenophobia, patronage politics and disharmony in communities.

3. Have conversations about the future, interact with their peers in networking platforms and forge partnerships across socio-economic and political spheres.

4. Unite across divisions of race and political lines to build a better and prosperous Africa by taking full advantage of the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and building vital connections for continental growth.

Examples of the 4IR sectors include artificial intelligence, robotics, digitisation, mechanisation and machine learning as holding great potential to ensure sustainable livelihoods.

5. Build skills to encourage youth entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Take your hustle to the next level.

6. Take their role of being He said the gatekeepers of democracy by ensuring their energy and legitimate dissent is aimed at protecting all democratic institutions.

7. Volunteer your time, skills and available resources on how you can help your local area or a cause within your community. Whether it’s in an orphanage, old-age home, teaching or sports project, environmental protection and preservation. It’s not just for adding experience to your CV but an avenue to make a real difference.

8. Speak Out. When young people see anything violent, unjust or any wrongdoing, they should not hesitate to speak out. The world today offers highly effective and unique tools to amplify your voice through technology like social media platforms. Use both social media and offline ways of expressing yourself.

9. Embrace a healthy, active, positive living and encourage your peers to move away from a sedentary lifestyle.

10. Maximise every opportunity to fight youth unemployment and youth under-employment which are huge problems in many sectors yet do not receive the kind of attention they should.

Mobilise other young people, governments, business and civil society organisations to work in close collaboration and to pay greater attention to structural and institutional aspects of economic policy that are important for diffusing prosperity and opportunity – and make sure these are preserved for younger and future generations.