By 2050, Africa will have reached a population of 2.5 billion inhabitants, representing a quarter of the world population. And more significantly, with an average age of 24 years, Africa will be the youngest continent representing the biggest workforce pool in the world. This will represent a huge demographic advantage as much as a challenge that we need to heed to and plan for from now. Within 15 years, 440 million young Africans will seek to enter the job market and under current provisions, only 10% of the young population will be able to find work in the formal economy before the age of 30.
Low levels of education and training, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, threats to peace and stability are valid preoccupations to our youth but the economic opportunities remain their biggest aspiration and challenge. We are already aware of the trend in parts of Africa whereby those youth who are left behind in rural areas with little prospect of adequate employment are lured by the false promises of clandestine emigration to Europe and terrorism. We cannot afford to lose more of our youth and we must also acknowledge in their acts of desperation a failure of national systems. It is the responsibility of governments to rise to the challenge.
Where do we start? The agricultural sector remains the main employer in Africa (60-70%) but the two main hurdles are the lack of infrastructure and modernization. Investment and renewed effort in a spirit of regional integration will be transformational. This is already starting to happen in the field of Education and Entrepreneurship.
The African Leadership Academy (ALA), tailor-made for the future Africa, on a model that taps into the best that the world can offer while catering to African specificities, needs and ambitions, heralds hope. The ALA aims to create 3 million African leaders through a pan-African suite of 20 universities over a period of 50 years. The first university was open in Mauritius in 2015 and a second is on its way in Rwanda. The emphasis is on developing the entrepreneurship spirit and skills of the students. Social entrepreneurship is not to be neglected, especially with the rising consciousness of the collective impact of entrepreneurship.
As Africa rises to its destiny, we are seeing in our youth a drive to build at home in their immediate and wider communities. There is a spirit of political commitment and innovation in their determination to push through actions which impact positively onto people’s immediate lives. We should provide our young entrepreneurs with a supportive ecosystem that allows their work to be sustainable by connecting them with Impact Investors from within and without Africa, by providing capacity-building, advocacy, and providing them with access to new technologies.
We cannot miss this boat as a continent. Political leadership at country level and the political will to create the right conditions for our young Africans will be all determining. Planning political succession in a spirit of renewal and evolution, grooming our youth for decision-making roles and demonstrating that there is a place for them in the political arena are further positive signs we will be sending to anchor their energy and creativity here on the continent.