The American University of Nigeria (AUN) has won the maiden edition of the Africa Regional Peer-to-Peer: Challenging Extremism Competition held in Accra.
The University for Development Studies (UDS) in Ghana was the first runner-up, while the second runner-position went to the Tunis Business School (TBS).
The AUN was represented by Ms Zamiyat Abubakar, Abdulmalik Garbage Aminu, Exploits Nicholas, Hafiz S. Michika and Mohammed Chubado Ahmed.
The UDS contingents include Joseph Dabi-Arkoh, Kpatsa Korsi A. Thomas, Randa Nsenkyire, Hamidatu Abdul Rahman and Michael Abboh.
The TBS contestants consist of Haythem Rabti, Monem Ezzerelli, Badis Laabidi and Aymen Latoya.
For their prizes, AUN received $ 5,000, while the UDS had $ 3,000, whereas the TBS went home with $ 1,000.
This is the first time an Africa Regional Peer-to-Peer Challenge on Extremism Competition is being organised, although globally it has being going on for the past 17 years.
The competition had been designed to empower students around the world to develop and execute campaigns and media strategies against extremism that are credible, authentic and viewable to their peers and resonate within their communities.
The finalists of the Africa Regional Competition were selected through a series of contests involving 27 universities on the continent.
The AUN, UDS and the TBS would now have to face off with winners from others continents to be held in the United States later this year.
Team AUN spoke on the topic: “I am a believer,” UDS: “Voice for Change,” and TBS: “Tell somebody to be reasonable.”
The topics of the various teams sought to promote religious and cultural tolerance.
The competition was organised by the Africa Centre for Security and Counter Terrorism (ACSC), in collaboration with Facebook, Edventure Partners and the States Department of the United States.
Mr Emmanuel Kotin, the Head of Programmes, ACSC, in his address during the competition said: “The threat posed by fundamentalists elements in the world appears not to be waning as several groups continue to join the bandwagon of terrorism.
“The importance of the Peer-to-Peer Challenging Extremism Competition cannot be overemphasised. The world has reached a point where we need a concerted effort to addressing the problem of violent extremism,” he added.
He noted that increasingly many fundamentalists groups hid under religion to advance their agenda that end up killing and embarrassing the religions they identified with.
Mr Kotin said working in concert to make the world a safe place should therefore, be the responsibility of all manner of people including the young men and women in tertiary institutions.
“It is on this basis that I find this programme and competition in Africa and especially Ghana very encouraging and timely.
“Time and again because of the sophisticated nature of terrorism, many African countries are becoming safe havens for fundamentalists groups,” he stated.
He said attacks were occurring in a number of countries on the continent and it was looking like there was no end in sight.
“Especially, we have seen attacks in the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Cameroon.
“Many experts believe that Africa is increasingly becoming synonymous with terrorism,” Mr Kotin said.
He mentioned that the factors that were conducive to terrorism such as poverty, religious fundamentalism and human rights violations seem to account for the prevalence of these fundamentalists behaviours on the continent.
He urged Africa governments to work towards addressing the problems of terrorism, since it hinders investors.
“Governments in the continent must act with dispatch on the many unemployed youth who our economies are leaving behind,” he said.
Mr Kotin also appealed to academic institutions on the continent to endeavour to have units that teach and conduct research on the potential effects of fundamentalism in Africa.
Ms Sarah F. Shabbir, the Cultural Attache at the United States Embassy in Accra, called for religious and cultural tolerance among all and sundry.
Madam Ekua Gyekye of Facebook said Facebook attaches much importance to the issue of overcoming terrorism.
She said counter terrorism requires positive messaging; adding that “we believe that young people have a part to play in combating terrorism”.
Mr Tony Sgro, the Chief Executive Officer of EdVenture Partners urged the youth to use social media to help fight terrorism.
An elated Ms Zamiyat Abubakar, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, expressed joyed that their hard efforts had been rewarded.