The purpose of LAFA is utilizing digital technologies for promoting serious and fruitful debates on politics and other issues. LAFA is an acronym for the Leading Africa Forum-Angola. The project was created in the mind of Pedro Domingos Paposseco Manuel from Angola. He was born in Cazenga, one of the seven municipalities in the city of Luanda, Pedro had the opportunity to study abroad and enlarge his perception of the world. Now, he uses social media to empower youth and promote discussions on developing his country.
Currently, Pedro is living in the United States, and he conceived the project in the middle of 2018, after talking with his “African brothers,” as he affectionately calls classmates who live in the diaspora. “I created a project with two friends, one of them from Uganda and the other from Swaziland. We wished to unite African students for intergenerational talks on subjects related to Africa”, he remembers what he had said. “Talking is good, but, what comes next” Then I imagined, but I need to do something else.”
From then on, Pedro decided to meet with other college students from diverse fields to expand the debates on issues focused on the development of the African continent. “We tried to have some face-to-face meetings. However, as we are associated with government entities, we faced some institutional barriers. But then, we went to the Internet”, he remembers.
The first “Lafando” show was aired on December 22, 2018. A live-talk show broadcast on Facebook. Pedro talked with some young African researchers on each broadcast, who could be located anywhere on the planet. The subjects were varied. New cybernetic challenges, the implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT) in Angola, art as an expression of African culture, and the importance of the media for building citizenship; as these were some of the subjects that have already been discussed.
Pedro considers the social relevance to choose the topic for each broadcast. He also looks for the involvement of inspiring people. Generally, young people are invited, who abide by leadership principles and are sensitive to social issues. “We seek to make the programs educational and utilize the real-life experiences of the guest speaker to motivate others,” he says. “For many of us, we are needy of positive examples of role models; people who can inspire us. That is the reason why I look for successful young people in the academic world”.
Besides the bi-monthly Facebook broadcasts, the LAFA project is now holding face-to-face meetings. The idea is to honor the poorest Angolan people.“I know what it is like to be young and without any access to a computer,” he explains.“We wish to provide the means for young Angolans to express themselves who are engaged in projects. Those who are concerned about communitarian issues”.The first face-to-face meeting took place in July, in Cazenga, where Pedro was born.
From Angola to the world
Pedro left Angola for the first time in 2013 to study in Norway. Nowadays, he lives in Norman, Oklahoma, where he studied Public Administration and International Studies. Now, he continues in academic life, pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration. However, he thinks about returning to his country as soon as possible.”I have a high degree of patriotic sentiment. Moreover, for that reason, I feel more useful there than here. I want one day to stop studying and get real-life experience here and then return to benefit the society and achieve further development,”, he reveals.
He intends to strengthen his skills as a communicator until he returns there. “I am learning so much. Last year, I learned about social media. I had never done a live broadcast before Lafando. I want to make progress in other aspects, besides the technological one, as then I will feel more at ease with the guests”.
The motivation for going ahead on this project, according to him, is to guarantee further diversity in the discussion on African development and escape from what the traditional media broadcasts. The young Angolan also expects to improve the quality of the debate and introduce other elements being discussed by youth in his country. “Plurality is missing in the voices being heard. Many intellectual young people who have not yet become visible”, he believes. “I have noticed that there are few Angolans who have participated in debates on African issues. I have also deduced that language serves as a hindrance for many compatriots, and for that reason, many have focused on what is produced in Portugal”, he laments.
Pedro reveals that he would like to become a university professor in the future. “I want to be an individual with the skills to foster human development,” he comments. Asked if he would be interested in joining politics, Pedro says this is not his focus but he would not rule out taking public office. For now, it is interested in forming new leaders. ”If I am capable of positively influencing new leaders, those who will be able to influence others. Then, I only wish to be a citizen who is capable of positively influencing others”.