INTERVIEW: Timothy Mugerwa on African Youth

Mr. Timothy Mugerwa
President, African Youth Union (AYU)
Ignite The Youth is currently focused on Youth in the African Union. As part of this thematic undertaking we will be interviewing selected Youth Leaders and gathering their views and opinions on the organization and how it interacts with the African Youth. Our first interviewee is Mr. Timothy Mugerwa of Uganda. Timothy is the President of the African Youth Union (AYU) and has experience working with youth across the continent for up to 10 years. Here is what he has to say...

Q. Please introduce the African Youth Union (AYU) – What is your organization about?
A. The African Youth Union (AYU) is a Pan-African youth organization boasting the largest youth representation in Africa. It bridges the gap between the youth and government, and acts as a conduit between the youth and regional bodies. The AYU is mandated to lobby governments for the implementation of youth centered policies. These policies seek to promote and support entrepreneurship amongst the youth, promote democracy and good governance through ethical leadership, encourage the mentoring and coaching of young African leaders; prioritize youth policy based research and to preserve Africa’s natural resources through the AYU Green Campaign.

Q. As a prominent Youth leader, what are your thoughts on the relationship between the Youth and the African Union?
A. There’s little relationship and mainly built on politics. However, on paper the relationship is big and youth are a priority. 
I cannot blame the AU for its limited relationship with youth but the supposed youth leaders, particularly the PYU (Pan-African Youth Union), which has failed to work with youth organizations and instead promotes disunity. Perhaps I expect a lot from it and I could be wrong to expect a union of national youth councils (NYC) which is struggling to unify NYCs to bring together other youth-led institutions.
The “business as usual” approach of building individuals rather than institutions is failing our youth. There’s no way the AU can have a proper relationship with youth when youth leaders are systemically expanding the gap instead of bridging it. More of my thoughts can be found in my previous article here 

Q. In the African Youth Charter, the AU commits itself to “Facilitating exchange and co-operation between youth organizations across national borders”. Has the AU lived up to this promise made to Youth Organizations such as yourselves?
A. "I think the AU has lived up to it but, like earlier noted, youth leaders and the self acclaimed apex youth body that is not accountable to the youth it’s representing have frustrated the realization of the promise."

Q. What is your message to the African Youth?
A. "Demand for leaders at all levels to be accountable and don’t celebrate leaders but respect them according to their service. Any person who goes against the will of the African people is against Africa. A youth leader whose job description is to travel to conferences without reporting back to the youth and has no grass root activities should be brought to books. African youth deserve better and we should not settle for less. We need functional youth institutions not individuals. Let’s all engage in meaningful activities from wherever we are in our own means."