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Intense Meetings, Beautiful Culture & Exciting Visits! Nigerian Common Futures Conversations Reps share their Experience in Addis Ababa

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Mirabelle Morah, Oyindamola Adegboye and Wadi Ben-Hirk, CFC Nigeria Representatives

Hello BellaNaijarians!

We shared news earlier about an amazing project called – The Common Futures Conversations (CFC) – and also invited you to be part of the process.

CFC is an online platform that seeks to connect young people from Africa and Europe to find common ground and solutions to policy issues affecting both continents. It is a Chatham House and Robert Bosch Foundation project.

The Nigeria Country Representatives for CFC – Oyindamola Adegboye, Wadi Ben-Hirki and Mirabelle Morah – are sharing updates on what they’ve been up to as part of their work.

Oyindamola Adegboye:

During the first workshop in London, CFC representatives from 13 countries contributed to designing a survey that sought to understand youth policy priorities, how youth engage with political content and what features would be needed to design an inclusive platform.

To analyse the results of the survey and glean insights that would inform the design of the CFC platform, a two-day workshop held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from February 25 -26, 2019.

CFC Team and Country Representatives from Africa and Europe

It was interesting to know that more than 4,000 people filled the survey and that many young people still showed great interest despite the time constraint. The survey showed that poverty, corruption, unemployment and education were ranked high by young Nigerians as important issues the country is facing. These issues were also similarly identified by youth in other African countries while issues like climate, fake news and migration were ranked lower.

Interestingly, youth in selected European countries ranked climate, fake news, discrimination and migration higher than their African counterparts. Interesting, right? We would like to know what you think about these disparities.

CFC Country Reps at the workshop in Hilton Addis Ababa

Wadi Ben-Hirki:

The next task that CFC country representatives had to complete during the workshop was to brainstorm on the platform design. Thus, we were split into smaller teams led by facilitators from Chatham House and the Robert Bosch Foundation to address issues such as the vision, practical aspects, and sustainability plans for the platform.

Questions we tried to answer include: what would be the topics for discussion and how will these topics be chosen? What is the profile of an ideal user? What would make the platform different from alternatives that already exist? Will the dialogue lead to policy engagement or contribute to research? How would we measure success?

After all the group work and deliberation, we were given some time to plan our platform pitches. The pitches revealed a lot of interesting and innovative ideas and we are sure the team from Chatham House and Robert Bosch Foundation would find a hard time distilling all the excellent points that were presented.

Finally, we ended the workshop by discussing ways forward, our expectations, and how to remain engaged during the platform design process. We strongly believe that this platform could bring about positive change and indeed, facilitate dialogues and collaboration between young people in Africa and Europe. We would also like to know what you think!

CFC Country Representatives pitching their ideas for the platform

CFC Country Representatives pitching their ideas for the platform 2

Mirabelle Morah:

*sigh* Guys this gist is beginning to get boring! I can’t wait to share the fun part of our trip. What is it they say again about traveling? Yes, the best stories and memories in life can be found between the pages of your passport. Thankfully, the intense meetings were punctuated with memorable visits and informal activities.

One thing that struck us about Ethiopia was the people’s pride in their national heritage and culture. Popularly known as the Horn of Africa, Ethiopians proudly speak their national language, Amharic. If you’re walking on the road, you would see numerous signboards and posters written in Amharic. It’s a little scary for a non-speaker, but depending on where you go, knowledge of the English language can still save you – especially if you’re in the capital city of Addis Ababa. We were lodged at the Hilton Addis Ababa which was centrally located and had rooms that offered beautiful scenic views.

On the first day, we went to the Entoto Maryam (St Mary) Church/Menelik & Taitu’s Memorial Musuem & Palace – after a long drive up very hilly roads.

Entoto Maryam (St Mary Church)

CFC reps _ Entoto Maryam (St Mary) church

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum but it had real artifacts, swords, robes, crowns, pictures of Emperor Menelik II, his wife Empress Taitu and sanctified objects used for worship from decades ago. Mount Entoto happens to be about the highest peak in Addis Ababa (3200 above sea level). Menelik II was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1889 till 1913 and built his palace in Entoto. It was from this palace he saw Addis Ababa (translated to mean beautiful flower), which he subsequently chose to become the capital of Ethiopia.

Menelik II Palace

Menelik Palace

Our next visit was to the African Union Headquarters where we had a briefing session with the Special Representative to the African Union and Head of United Nations Office to the AU, Hanna Tetteh. She addressed us on her vision for youth engagement on the development of governance, peace and security policy across Africa. As an experienced diplomat, she also encouraged young people to create spaces on our own tables, especially when they are not invited to “other tables”, using this as a metaphor for youth to be creative and innovative about engaging in policy issues.

We were also privileged to have a guided tour of the African Union Commission and learnt more about its role within African policy.

On our last night together as a group, we went to have food and drinks at Habesha 2000, a cultural restaurant that promotes Ethiopian culture. The place was packed to the brim, but thankfully we already had reservations, if not we would have missed out on all the cultural performances and tasty Ethiopian food. The buffet was a delight and offered different options including: spicy, mild, and vegetarian dishes. We also tried a national favourite called Injera, a flat, sponge-like bread made of teff flour. Although, we had really anticipated tasting it, it was one thing we were not able to connect with (LOL) – blame our Nigerian taste buds.

Ethiopian Injera

The ambience at Habesha 2000 was very lively: there were so many Western and African tourists. The Ethiopian dancers were super energetic! The female dancers spinning their heads for what seemed like forever, were such a sight to behold. We were also lucky to have witnessed a newly married couple having a sort of family reception at the restaurant. As the couple danced, well-wishers “sprayed” money on them — well, not only in Nigeria!

Traditional dancers at Habeesha 2000

Ethiopia is indeed a beautiful country with beautiful people and lovely hair (especially if you’re a natural hair lover!) Whenever you get to visit Addis, don’t forget to visit different places such as the Holy Trinity Cathedral and the market place, where you can get beautiful fabrics like the Gabi but be sure to go with a local, so you won’t be cheated! Also, always check the weather forecast: Addis Ababa was sunny but (relatively) windy for our Nigerian bodies, so we had our jackets on sometimes. Nonetheless we would gladly go there again if another opportunity arises.

You can sign up to get updates about the Common Futures Conversations and how to join the network in your country.

You can also follow the conversation on Twitter – @ChathamHouse, Instagram –@chathamhouse_org using the hashtag #CHCommonFutures

Oyindamola Adegboye, Wadi Ben-Hirki and Mirabelle Morah are the Nigerian Country Representatives for the Common Futures Conversations,

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