File Picture,President Barack Obama addresses the Young African Leaders Initiative in Washington, Wednesday, August 3, 2016. President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders in hope of strengthening democratic governance and encouraging peace and security across Africa. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
With transformative and visionary leadership in place, a high population, that is rightly skilled and economically empowered, can be a catalyst, for accelerating, a sustainable economic growth and development, that is all-inclusive and beneficial, for a harnessed, political, economic, and social prosperity of a Nation/Continent. Africa’ population which today stands at 1.2 billion people, and is expected to more than double by 2050, is rising, and so is unemployment, that is forcing, thousands of young people, to trek extremely very dangerous journey, through the Sahara desert, to Libya, and then on insecure boats, in the Mediterranean Sea, with the hope of finding opportunities for a better livelihood in Europe.
According to the international organization for migration, this year alone, 2017, over 8,800 African migrants, have been returned to their home countries. What is leadership in Africa not doing right, that is forcing millions of young people want to leave their continent in search of green pastures elsewhere?
Africa’s young people, who today, totals over 420 million aged between 15 -35 age, and is expected to increase to over 830 million by 2050, is a huge demographic asset, which if given right skills and opportunities, can be turned into an economic dividend driving the continent forward. Skilled young people produces high work rate, and acts as an attraction, for investors seeking to open up new investment prospects. Skilled young people, if also accorded right funding, can be able to produce inventions and innovations, in various sectors that can in the end result into turning Africa’s abundance natural resources, into usable finished products, thus promoting entrepreneurship and industrial development.
Are the African countries giving its young people factual skills and opportunities to produce ground breaking technologies that can attract mutual industrial research and technological collaborations from developed countries especially in agriculture and agricultural related sectors?
Agriculture, which is, and is expected for the next decade, to continue being a major employer, employing about 65 percent and source of livelihood for the majority of Africans, can if well consistently structured and profitably transformed, birth agribusiness enterprises and agro-industrialization in Africa, that can make majority of Africans, to secure well-paying jobs, and this would greatly curb migration of young Africans to Europe and mutually save both African and European economies, from spending millions of dollars, which they spend every year, trying to curtail their movement from Africa to Europe.
African countries, must in collaborations with regional and global institutions, such as African Development Bank and World Bank, design and implement policies and build institutions, that are job creation enhancing, and which provides for, creation of new rural micro- enterprises, larger scale agribusinesses, and agro- industrialization to thrive. This will not only contribute to transformation of rural economies and curbing of extreme poverty, but will also, create millions of jobs in agricultural and agricultural fed industrial sector, thus contributing to economic growth and development that is all- inclusive.
One youth from Uganda that I met recently had this to say, “Immediately after completing by Bachelor’s degree, in food science and technology in 2014, I underwent a basic agricultural training in passion fruits growing and juice making, armed with training and with funding from my parents and friends, I went to village and planted 4 acres of passion fruits. Initially I sold them, to fruits, making factories in raw form and earned good profit, which I later used to buy machines and other equipment’ to set up a medium juice making enterprise, which is now employing, 50 full time workers. I am now earning extremely very good profits from selling the juice to various institutions, and I am now working on securing a loan or a grant, to expand my factory and employ many more other people, as demand for my juice is higher than the supply”.
This in essence means that, access to timely funding from financial institutions, can make millions of unemployed African youth, to establish many small and medium enterprises, that has got the potential to turn into large scale industries, contributing to expanding of their countries’ economic and taxable base, but unfortunately lack of funding is their major constraint. To overcome this, African countries, must urgently put in place financial policy interventions, which unlocks the impasse that makes the youth, not to easily get timely funding to turn their entrepreneurship ideas into reality.
To attain this, activities such as establishment of an innovation and information labs that incubate new ideas and entrepreneurship, and scaling up establishment of well designed industrial parks complete with reliable power, access roads, guaranteed security, and other social amenities, which all stimulate private sector investments must be scaled up. These activities are very crucial in stimulating domestic investments and in attracting foreign direct investors, who are eager to come and massively invest in different sectors, to profit from the already existing large market driven by a high and skyrocketing population.
In sum, with abundance natural resources such as precious minerals, that are on high demand globally, and being home, to 60 percent of world’s arable land, coupled with expanding large market, Africa’s potential as destination of choice for investors is unquestionable. Virtually, all African sectors be it in, mining, oil and gas, agriculture, banking, among others, are very highly profitable for investors to invest in, either purely on private undertaking or through public private partnerships and investors must be genuinely and mutually interested in adding value to African products and create sustainable jobs that improves the welfare of Africa people.
*Moses Hetegeka is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst, and Writer