Greetings and welcome to my blog!

My name is Erik van der Zanden, a MA African Studies student with a passion for empowering youth in Africa. In this blog I will write about what inspired me in the last lecture of Researching Africa in the 21st Century. 

I was greatly inspired by my fellow students and their projects. All of us are going to do something different regarding research topic and we are evenly spread out over Africa. It is great to see how we managed to succeed under quite some pressure to find an internship, design a research proposal while passing our many assignments. I like the possibility to keep in touch with each other while doing the internship and afterwards working on our thesis through this Voice4Thought initiative.

It was a great lecture for me, as several of my problems were solved through listening to the students and lecturers while thinking about issues I had to solve. 

The first was about the word revolution. For me, revolution is the social-political transformation many nations (USA, China, countries in Europe, Turkey, Indonesia) had to experience before they could gain political stability (power in hands of the people instead of monarchs/dictatorships) and start their long process towards economic development. 

In general when Africa was colonized, the European colonizers installed the system of decentralized despotism. Societies were divided into tribes, led by all powerful chiefs through several layers of power with at the top the colonial power in the cities. In the manifesto/book that I am writing called: ‘The Unfinished Revolution’ I call this the ‘System of Control’. It is that social-political system, where the elite or the minority rule the nation, while the people are divided and without power that has not been transformed.

It was Frantz Fanon that wrote a book called: ‘Towards the African Revolution’. In my eyes the decolonisation (so also end of Apartheid 1994) of colonial power was only the first phase of the revolution, before it can be completed the inherited social-political structures need to be transformed, therefore the African revolution is unfinished. 

Yet as soon as I use the word revolution, I feel people, and academics in particular, think about bloody massacres, guillotines destruction or communist transformation. The connotation to the word is completely different to the positive transformation I see when I think about revolution. Based on the feedback from the class I decided to not use the word revolution anymore because of the connotation it has, but the word transformation instead.

This led to the research question: How can Ugandan youth transform their social-political situation through non-violent methods?

I was also inspired by the options visual methods can provide me, as it would allow me to communicate my findings to youth in Uganda even under an oppressive dictatorship, through building a website based on my thesis.