April 23, 2020 Print

Amidst a climate of uncertainty and rapid change, one group in West Africa is seeking to connect young people over the principles of liberty. Libre Afrique, an Atlas Network partner, is bringing together groups throughout Francophone West Africa and providing them with the materials needed to make them leaders of liberty in their home countries.

Libre Afrique has a two-fold mission, the first of which is to combat the dominant presence illiberal media through frequent pan-African publications. These publications include original articles as well as French translations of pieces written by Atlas Network partners and other liberty-minded thinkers.

Through this initiative, Libre Afrique releases more than one hundred articles monthly, both original works and translations. They have been covered extensively by pan-African media and reach hundreds of thousands of people; their Facebook page alone has nearly 300,000 followers.

“The other interest of the program is to create, monitor and energize young groups of activists in five countries of the West African sub-region: Mali, Chad, Niger, Senegal, and Benin,” said economics professor Hicham El Moussaoui, who is also the project manager of Libre Afrique.

To achieve this goal, Libre Afrique works with universities, journalists, and other partners in these countries to create a community of supportive groups. Having previously established chapters in Mali, Niger, and Benin, the focus of the organization in these countries has been growth. This year, the Mali group included 381 participants and Niger had 184, with dozens of new members being added through the organization’s outreach efforts. Libre Afrique also achieved milestones in Chad and Senegal, officially registering the groups with local authorities.

Libre Afrique also prioritizes inclusion in its outreach. In Senegal, 33 out of 56 new members this year were women. Continuing to represent and support different kinds of people is key to the success of the organization in championing freedom.

“Unfortunately, in our experience, young people alongside women have been the most marginalized segments of the population,” said El Moussaoui. “Thus, there is nothing better than those who are excluded from a system to mobilize themselves in order to reform it.”

Although West Africa has become a region of rapid development and economic growth in recent years, there is still a great deal of unrest. Libre Afrique believes personal freedoms and economic liberty can be a solution. El Moussaoui said, “We are very proud to have extended Atlas Network to five countries, three of which are particularly fragile countries. Mali, Chad, and Niger are very affected by terrorist attacks and it is a duty to promote freedom particularly in these countries.”

Libre Afrique’s ultimate goal is to create a freer and more beneficial society for the people of West Africa. They know their biggest challenge will be to motivate people to act and bring about change in their own communities.

“We [Libre Afrique] are convinced of a universal principle: we are exactly what we think,” said El Moussaoui. “To change African societies, their citizens, especially young people, should change their minds. Through our translations we try to deconstruct many of their myths about politics, economics and religion in African societies. We offer them an alternative look at the problems they are experiencing, but we also suggest solutions inspired by the ideas of freedom.”

By focusing on connectedness and creating regional communities of students and young people, Libre Afrique hopes to empower a new generation of liberty-minded leaders to support liberty and prosperity in their own countries.

Libre Afrique’s work has been supported by Atlas Network grants.