With 70 per cent of Africa’s population under the age of 30, the continent has the largest youth population that presents immense potential for growth.
But it depends on how we look at the large youth population. Is it a glass half full or half empty?
With the largest youth population in history, the continent has a great opportunity because with each young person, we have new ideas and new energy. Africa must invest in youth to secure the future.
Across the continent, there are great examples of achievements of exemplary young inventors and innovators that represent the very best of what happens when we partner and invest in young people.
A good example is M-Pesa, the Kenyan innovation that has revolutionised financial services, and is now being replicated elsewhere on the continent.
There are also solutions like m-Pedigree, an application invented by a young Ghanaian to enable consumers identify counterfeit drugs.
If the 2019 Global Innovation Index (GII) is anything to go by, a poor standard of education, low investment in research and uneven adoption of innovative processes, products and solutions by businesses have held back innovation in many countries in Africa.
Speaking recently at the Youth Connekt Africa in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame reminded Africa that to develop, we must innovate.
Indeed, governments in Africa must foster an enabling environment for youth innovation and participation in development — meet their innovation needs, promote and support required legislation and policies, mainstream youth in all relevant aspects of development, and work with them as partners and not mere beneficiaries.
At the same time, young people should be equipped with the education, innovation skills and confidence to innovate and be competitive globally.
Governments should set up innovation hubs to provide working spaces and research centres on technology trends, knowledge and strategic innovation.
As recommended in the “World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2018”, low-income economies that are looking to innovation for employment should prioritise the creation of a favourable education system, extensive ICT adoption and domestic market competition.
Make no mistake, young people are key to the success of development plans in Africa.