Africa Day is a time for reflecting on who we are – an enterprising, innovative and resilient people. Today we not only celebrate who we are and our achievements, but we also focus on our continent’s future.
25 May, Africa Day, is a day for celebrating the occasion when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the African Union, was formed in 1963. It is a day when we celebrate the progress made by Africans, while reflecting on the common challenges we face in a global environment.
Industrialisation is the one area in which the continent of Africa needs to make rapid progress. It is not an overstatement that industrialisation is a critical engine for economic growth and development. If managed prudently and effectively it can contribute to creating employment opportunities and re-position the continent to becoming competitive in the global trading environment.
This year, the NEPAD Agency commemorates Africa Day by also celebrating the innovations that entrepreneurs on the continent are developing, under the African Union theme for 2017, Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.
The growing extent of youth unemployment poses a fundamental challenge for the whole of Africa. About 60 percent of the unemployed are under the age of 25 and young women are especially affected.
On the positive side, Africa has the youngest population in the world, and it is this population that will supply the much needed human capital and innovations in the years to come, even as the continent becomes more and more industrialised.
Even as the continent faces the challenges of integration and industrialisation, many are the innovations that young enterprising Africans are developing to redress development challenges on the continent. Many are the innovations by young Africans that need to be up-scaled that provide solutions in the areas of biosciences (including agriculture), climate change adaptive innovations, ICTs, advanced manufacturing, to name but a few.
On this special day for Africa, we therefore make a call for the need to ensure that investment into industrialisation and innovation is at par with the growing demands for skills development, employment and entrepreneurship from our youthful population. With a footprint in 52 countries on the continent, the NEPAD Agency provides the gateway to boost the expansion of innovations, providing African solutions to Africa’s challenges. Indeed, the more we think regionally, the faster we can grow into ‘The Africa We Want’ by ensuring the skills of our entrepreneurs and innovators are being shaped as they grow, resulting into the overall transformation of all regions on the continent.