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March 31, 2010

UN Agency Launches Contest to Move Africa into Future

by Lisa Bryant

The Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has launched a competition for innovative ideas for Africa's development over the next decade. Just about anybody, including non-Africans, can participate.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is looking for your feedback by April 30. That's the deadline to submit proposals for a new competition launched by UNESCO: "Ten ideas for Tomorrow's Africa."

UNESCO's Arnaud Drouet, who is overseeing the competition, says it is a way to look to the future as the world marks the 50th anniversary of African independence movements.

"The purpose is not to take stock of the independence [movements] on the African continent, but rather to put some innovative ideas on how to move Africa forward in the main fields of action like economy and development, culture, youth, religion," explained. Drouet.  "And the idea is to involve teachers, academics, civil society actors like NGOs, politicians also to propose to UNESCO some concrete ideas."

Just about anybody can participate. The details of the competition can be found on UNESCO.org. Applicants should propose one new idea that falls into one of 10 specific topics, ranging from economics and politics, to cultural identity, human rights or education.

What's critical is to get ordinary people - and not just big institutions - involved in moving Africa forward.

"Most of the African leaders and especially civil society actors keep telling UNESCO and other international organizations [that] we have to move from an economic and institutional understanding of regional integration to people-centered integration, in terms of freedom of movement, currency, economy and trade," added Drouet.

An international jury will select the winners by mid-May. In June, they will be flown to UNESCO headquarters in Paris to give presentations on their proposals. The aim is to get governments and organizations like UNESCO to actually put these grassroots ideas into practice.