Well-endowed with a wide variety of resources such as oil, diamonds, cocoa and cotton. Africa, previously referred to as the ‘sleeping giant’ has proved that despite not being ‘western’ it can and will rapidly catch up. Within the continent we have well respected economic giants such as South Africa and Nigeria and evolving giants for instance Ghana in the west of and Tanzania in the east. Both Ghana and Tanzania not only demonstrate the almost perfect example of political stability in Sub-Saharan Africa but have managed to successfully tap into industries such as cocoa, oil and gold. Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa beans in the world and Tanzania is rising up the African GDP ladder with its success in petroleum.
The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) described the potential and progress of African economies as “lions on the move” in 2010. Industries in our commodities for example oil and diamonds have created billionaires like Mike Adengu and Nicky Oppenheimer. Mike Adengu is a Nigerian oil and telecommunications Tycoon; he was also recognised by Forbes in 2016 as the continents biggest gainer in both dollar and percentage terms. Nicky Oppenheimer on the other hand is South African, although inherited his fortune does not diminish the fact that he owns the world’s largest diamond producer (De Beers). This is all exciting and positive.
However there is something missing.
It is evident that Africa is moving forward but the Giant won’t roar until we manage to eradicate the things that slow down the potential of this continent. It must all sound so cliché reading and hearing about the potential of this rich continent. But ask yourself this: how a continent can bestow all these commodities yet still none of our nations are amongst the likes of the United States or Russia? Many will argue corruption and instability holding us back, which is a very fair plausible argument. However we need to begin to acknowledge and understand that our youth are the epitome of Africa’s successful future.
Youth Unemployment around Africa is worrying. Last year April it was reported that almost 50% of graduates in Africa, yearly do not get a job (ACET, 2016). It is said that we have the largest ‘youth bulge’ and by 2030 the number of youth in Africa is expected to increase by 42% making African youth half of the world youth population! Yes we can look into creating graduate schemes, prepare young people for the job market, and start illuminating pathways to productive work. Nevertheless, I think we need to effectively foster entrepreneurship across the continent; a white collar job is not the only way to make money or become a success. We need to encourage and support our youth to think outside the box despite what challenges they may face. There are various non-profit organisations across Africa that advocate youth entrepreneurship by creating workshops and networking events but, how many of these organisations have follow up mechanisms that ensure that they continue develop their ideas?
African countries also need the support of the government to foster entrepreneurship amongst the youth. In Zambia, the government have set up a ‘Youth Development Fund’ to help young people start businesses. Support of the government may not make a significant difference but it will most definitely help advocate the importance of enterprise.
… So Let’s innovate!
More importantly, in order for our youth to create ideas outside of the box they need to take a step outside of their own box. As a continent we need to come out of our comfort zone and invite change. Let us tap into industries like science and technology rapidly and successfully. “The future will be built in Africa” says Mark Zuckerberg CEO and Co-founder of Facebook. Kenya, has been recognised as the world leader in mobile money which is amazing if you ask me we have heard enough about oil and cocoa let’s try something new! Sierra Leonean Kelvin Doe at the age of 10, started scavenging for scrap electronics parts from dump sites to build batteries that would help generate light in his village. Today, at the age of 20, Kelvin owns his own company called KDoe-Tech Inc. , he has lectured to undergraduate engineering students at Harvard College and was the youngest boy ever to be invited to the “Visiting Practioners Programme” at MIT according to CNN.
Innovation is what we are missing ….