‘Africa’s youth will drive global growth’

The Sunday Mail

Chido Mpemba & Chido Munyati

AFRICA is a continent teeming with youthful energy and untapped potential, boasting the world’s youngest population with more than 60 percent of the continent’s population under the age of 25.

This burgeoning youth population is projected to grow even further. This comes as Africa’s population is expected to reach 2,5 billion by 2050, up from 1,4 billion today.

Notably, by 2035, there will be more young Africans entering the workforce each year than in the rest of the world combined.

With China, Japan, Korea and many European countries all experiencing a sharp decline in young workers, Africa’s fast-growing youth population has the potential to drive global growth in the same way China’s young workers once powered the global economy.

To be sure, harnessing this potential will require bold transformative reforms.

Under Agenda 2063, the African Union’s ambitious blueprint for transforming the continent into the global powerhouse of the future, Article Six presents a framework for a youth-led development agenda through targeted investments in education, technology and entrepreneurship.

Education to stimulate transformation

Investing in quality education is essential in unlocking the full potential of Africa’s youth but there are significant challenges in the sector.

In sub-Saharan Africa, a staggering 30 million primary school-age children are being deprived of vital learning opportunities. They are currently out of school, which highlights a stark disparity in educational opportunities.

However, promising efforts are underway to address these issues. The African Union has led the process, which is aimed at providing recommendations to the continent’s policy makers for a more equitable education system that meets the demands of the 21st century.

An ad hoc taskforce has brought about the creation of the African Union Declaration on Transforming Education, which suggests solutions for these challenges. They include increased investment in education, teacher training and technology integration, alongside strong political leadership.

Moreover, the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 seeks to reorient education and training systems, with the objective of instilling the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required to nurture African core values and promote sustainable development. Beyond traditional education, governments and companies must increase investments in education and reskilling to make sure people are empowered with the skills they need to thrive in the new economy and society.

Technology and innovation

Digital transformation in Africa holds enormous promise when it comes to addressing the youth employment challenge.

In the digital age, technology has the power to revolutionise Africa’s socio-economic landscape.

Access to information and communication technologies can bridge the digital divide, providing young Africans with opportunities to acquire knowledge, develop innovative ideas and connect with the global community.

However, according to UNICEF, around three in four youths lack the relevant skills to fully participate in Africa’s increasingly digitised economies.

Collaborative efforts are needed to equip African youths with the relevant digital skills, while enabling them access to technology.

The African Union Youth Envoy, in partnership with Google and regional governments, is leading a digital skills campaign — part of the larger African Union’s digital transformation campaign — which will equip 100 000 young people with digital skills by 2024.

Entrepreneurship and economic empowerment

Entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are fundamental to innovation, economic growth and job creation in Africa.

The continent has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world and SMEs contribute significantly to employment, accounting for 80 percent of jobs.

However, a renewed focus on innovation and digitalisation is required for these companies to increase their competitiveness in the global economy. Moreover, the policies and decisions governments make now, whether to address the skills gap or not, will directly influence future generations.

Governments should implement policies that promote entrepreneurship, such as providing access to capital, training and mentorship programmes. Additionally, creating an enabling business environment can attract both domestic and foreign investments, further stimulating economic growth and providing youths with more opportunities to succeed.

Already, Africa is home to some of the most exciting and innovative entrepreneurial talent.

Notably, in 2022, Africa was the only region in the world not to experience a slowdown in venture capital investment.

More specifically, in 2022, Africa’s tech startup sector passed the US$3 billion mark for the first time and a total of 633 startups on the continent raised a combined US$3,3 billion.

This was 55,1 percent more than the $2.15 billion raised in 2021 by 564 startups in Africa. Total annual funding for African tech startups has increased by over 1 000 percent since 2015.

Indeed, this is a strong illustration of how young entrepreneurs are attracting private capital and driving innovation in the region.

Addressing gender equality

Gender inequality remains a significant issue, especially in the education sector.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 9,5 million girls will never attend school, further perpetuating educational disparities.

Youths, particularly in rural and marginalised communities, face barriers such as poverty, gender inequality and inadequate infrastructure that prevent them from attending school.

Empowering young girls and women through education and economic opportunities is not only a matter of fairness but also essential for sustainable development.

Efforts must be made to eliminate gender disparities in education, increase women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, and break down barriers that limit their access to finance and entrepreneurship resources.

Earlier this year, the Kenyan government launched a gender parity accelerator, joining a network of 14 countries that are working towards advancing women’s economic participation and leadership, ensuring pay equity and preparing women for the future of work.

By ensuring gender equality, Africa can tap into the immense talent and expertise of all of its youths, enabling them to contribute fully to the continent’s progress.

Demographics will fuel the continent’s rise in a world of shrinking working-age populations.

Youth empowerment involves providing young people with tools, resources and opportunities to shape their educational journey, become agents of change and develop leadership, critical thinking and creativity skills.

It extends beyond the classroom to equipping them with modern-world skills that include digital literacy, problem-solving and entrepreneurship, while promoting inclusivity and gender equality.

Governments, civil society and the international community must work together to create an enabling environment that provides youths with the necessary tools and opportunities to flourish.

With the youthful energy and creativity of its people, Africa can shape a future marked by progress, prosperity and equitable growth for all. — weforum.org

* Chido Mpemba is the African Union Chairperson’s Youth Envoy. Chido Munyati is head of Regional Agenda, Africa, World Economic Forum.

CAPTION: In sub-Saharan Africa, about 9.5 million girls may never attend school

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post Kusi Festival is vital for boosting African progress
Next post Regional, int’l observers of 2024 Presidential Elections hail Egypt’s efforts to ensure transparency