While the future of Africa’s development looks promising, the continent remains troubled by corruption and lagging economic progress, according to Former Prime Minister of Kenya Raila Odinga.
Before a crowd of nearly 200 students and faculty members Thursday afternoon in Luce Hall, Odinga said that Africa lacks reliable electricity, depends on poor health infrastructure and experiences a high level of political instability. Odinga, who occupied the office of prime minister from 2008 through 2013, lost the most recent presidential election, receiving 43 percent of the general vote. Despite the continent’s challenges, Odinga claimed that he is optimistic about the growth of his home country, highlighting the wide use of mobile phones and increased education to children in Kenya.
“Some people say, ‘where is the hope?’” he said. “I say that hope is everywhere. Change is happening at a dizzying pace.”
Odinga added that Africa’s future depends on its next generation. Educating the expanding number of African youth is the key to progress, he said.
Without education, Odinga said, children are at greater risk for becoming delinquents, drug addicts and criminals.
“Youth can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse,” Odinga said. “What we must do is empower the youth with education from the time of nursery.”
Odinga added that Africa must expand its presence on the international stage. He said that the continent should seek to emulate China’s incredible growth over the last decade.
An important step in the development of the continent will be to control its own history, Odinga said. He added that world perception of Africa is influenced too much by foreigners and media outlets. However, the African people must assert their voices when describing their own reality, he said.
“Until the lamb learns to write, all the tales about the hunt will favor the hunter,” he said.
Last year, University President Peter Salovey said that expanding the University’s initiatives in Africa would be one of the key points of his tenure. Director for Public Affairs of the MacMillan Center Marilyn Wilkes said this talk contributed to Yale’s push to develop its relationship with Africa.
“[Yale is] making a concerted effort to bring people like the prime minister to campus,” Wilkes said. “ The Africa initiative itself is really growing and snowballing … and this [lecture] falls spot on in the middle of that initiative.”
While the talk was well-received by some attendees, students interviewed afterwards said they wished Odinga had been more specific.
Cecil Tengatenga DIV ’16 said that he wished Odinga engaged in less political rhetoric when discussing Africa’s security issues.
Odinga should have elaborated on the recent Kenyan presidential election that he lost, Anna Tovar LAW ’16 said.
Still, others found the talk to be more informative.
“He started to sketch out an agenda for the next decade you could say, and I thought that was interesting,” Yale Professor and Director of Graduate Studies for African Studies David Simon said. “Time constraints limited his ability to elaborate on that but it was a really interesting sort of start.”
Before becoming the Prime Minister of Kenya, Odinga was the Minister of Energy and served in the Kenyan parliament from 1992–2013.