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Young African writers learn to re-imagine the SDGs at ARFSD

6 March, 2021

Brazzaville, 6 March 2021 (ECA) - The need to guide young African writers to tell the Africa SDG story with African voices has been one of the focus of the Seventh Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) hosted by Congo Brazzaville. As part of the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) ‘Championing the Decade of Action initiative’, 15 to 35-year-old African youth creatives and writers based on the Continent or in the Diaspora were invited to attend a writing workshop following their response to a Call for short stories related to SDGs.

Jean Paul Adam, Director, Technology, Climate Change and Natural Services Division, indicated that the SDGs are more than just about statistics.

“The SDGs are about showing to everyone that is involved that this is something that is achievable, and not just a list of 17 goals that have been agreed on by the UN in New York. They are really achievable and the SDGs have meaning in people’s lives, especially young people.

This is also the power of words, of the imagination and the arts. Through arts, through the written and spoken word, we can capture the essence of how people feel, and also capture the hopes and frustrations of different generations, which is also how we are measuring the SDGs,” he said.

Facilitated by novelist, poet and creative-writing teacher Peter Kimani, the online workshop was aimed at promoting content-driven creativity, grounded on the SDGs and the efforts needed to accelerate action in this decade.

Keiso Matashane Marite, Social Affairs Officer at the ECA made the point about the importance of language to construct or deconstruct ideas and to assign meaning.  “Writers can ensure that we use language correctly,” she said in a moderated exchange dubbed, “The flesh and blood in the SDGs” and called on writers to write more about women achievers.

For his part, Prof. Kimani Njogu, a cultural scholar, said storytelling is about humanity. “We tell stories to understand the complexities of our lives. Stories help us to understand issues related to gender, human rights, the environment and issues that affect us. Therefore, if the ECA invests in storytelling about the SDGs, it has the potential to create emotional connections to the SDGs,” he said.

Mufasa the Poet, a young spoken-word artist who moved the audience with performances from his recently published collection, Raising a Sun, discussed the areas of his work that touch on inequalities and the relevance of the SDGs in that regard.

A longlist of over 187 English language submissions (and translated ones) from across the Continent is under review as part of the process of selecting the best submissions to be published in an Anthology of Short Stories.

The submissions include Afrofuturism, science fiction, action adventure, fantasy, speculative fiction, suspense, young adult, children’s stories, historical fiction, mystery, crime, comic, graphic novel and literary fiction.

At the end of the workshop, the participants deepened their understanding of the SDGs, and learned from the techniques involved in creative writing, such as the fundamentals of plotting; point of view; developing characters, among others.

Issued by:
Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826