We are starting an Activist Africa interview series with Continent Director of Africa Asia Youth Foundation (AAYFO), Chelvin Ramsamy.
Can you briefly tell us about AAYFO?
Founded in 2018, AAYFO is a unique amalgamation of progressive thinking Asian and African youths collaborating to forge a common goal in stimulating youth cooperation in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17. We work like one big family. As of date, we have nearly 50 Country Chapters in different countries across both continents. We have an International Executive Board, spearheaded by myself Mr. Chelvin Ramsamy as Continent Director Asia, and my close colleague Mr. Keshav Saini a Continent Director of Asia. We are a good structure, being assisted by our Regional Directors who act as liaison with their respective Country Directors.
How do you evaluate social works/projects in the age of social media?
Well, we at AAYFO have a very young and highly dynamic team who were lucky to have been raised up in the digital era. Today, I am proud to say that we have a Facebook Page for each of our Country Chapter, which is quite a feat! Likewise, we use Twitter and Instagram extensively to share the activities that our members are conducting on the ground in their respective countries. We make sure that each and everyone has the opportunity to showcase their talent and unique set of skills to the whole world. In the same vein, we use our social media pages to actively recruit new members. To sum up, we have an active social media presence and I definitely encourage the whole world to follow us to know more about our events and activities.
Can virtual social campaigns / online seminars be as effective as face-to-face communication?
In fact, this is the best time to evaluate the effectiveness of online activities, compared to on-ground ones. The Covid-19 global pandemic has disrupted things significantly and brought a new world order. To be honest, given that AAYFO across different countries in two different continents, we had already been conducting our cross-continental activities digitally even before the crisis that has come to hit the globe so hard. So, we were already well versed in the new technologies and harnessed these opportunities. I personally believe virtual activities are quite effective although there exist some challenges such as network issues in many African countries. Still, with the newly established African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which will be implemented in 2021, there is hope that such barriers will be eliminated.
What kind of mentorship AAYFO provides for youth? For instance, do you have any scholarship guarantee for African youngs who want to go to Asia for education?
I can reassure you that when you join AAYFO, you get a wealth of opportunities at your disposal. There are, for example, French classes being run to promote different languages and further consolidate the relationship between Africa and Asia. The Continent, Regional, and Country Directors act as mentors for all our members. The best thing about AAYFO is the unique chance that you get to be mentored by someone from a different country and this needs to be praised to the tilt! Furthermore, we work very closely with Embassies in different countries. So whichever local, cross-continental, or international opportunity available is shared with our members. While we cannot guarantee that our youth from Africa will definitely notch a scholarship in an Asian country, we do provide them with all the support and assistance needed in achieving the same. At AAYFO, we are convinced that education is the most powerful weapon to change the world!
When I look on social media channels I see that AAFYO is more active in Asian countries in the field, is there a special reason for this?
You might have correctly observed to some extent. As previously emphasized, we have social media accounts for all our Country Chapters. However, let me also tell you that most of our Country Directors have only assumed duty in late April/May 2020. Currently, we have around 30 African Country Chapters but before the recruitment of Country directors that we launched in April this year, we have only 7 Country Chapters. So, the whole point here is that our Country Chapters in Africa are by far relatively new so that we need to give them time to settle and find their ground. Practically all of them are being involved in the process of registration under their local laws. Once the current initial stages are completed, things will automatically kick on. Realistically speaking, we must expect a very active AAYFO presence in Africa in the coming months, as in Asia. Let’s afford our new African Chapters time!
What kind of responsibilities do your volunteers have?
The responsibilities we assign to our volunteers depend on their areas of expertise, experience, and most importantly, what they themselves feel at ease doing. We try as most as possible to harness their abilities. We strongly believe that in Africa, our youths have done enough small things; we need to do big things NOW!
In African countries, the population of Indians who are entrepreneurs or professional staff is huge. Are there any studies on sharing experiences with African youths?
This is a correct observation that this population is huge and according to the most recent studies conducted, I must add that it is increasing day by day, which is very pleasing to note. All these studies point towards one conclusion: The youth of today should no longer be consumers, but creators and innovators who are the driving force at all levels of society!
That part is for non-African volunteers who will read our interview;
What are the essentials of social work practice in vulnerable groups especially for Africa?
Effective communication and commitment are a must. As we know, many societies are still patriarchal and we need to effectively reach out to young people and women. Likewise, the problem of refugees is still very much present in Africa. There are conflicts as well as affecting many regions of our continent. If we have highly dedicated people, nothing will be unachievable!
Do you have specific difficulties in doing social work in Africa?
Yes. Language barriers, patriarchal societies, internet connectivity issues, lack of proper infrastructure, inadequate funding, absence of human resources, etc all present difficulties in one way or another to conducting social work on the African continent. Hopefully, with the new, literate generation that is growing up, we are slowly but surely witness progress on these issues.
What should be the first priority of the organizations that want to run a youth project in Africa?
The African Union Agenda 2063 “The Africa We Want” and its Pan African Vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena!