“No one is born great. Great people become great when others are sleeping” – African proverb.
Having just concluded a successful and highly impactful Intra-Africa Business Summit, hosted May 23-25, 2022 by the Economic Leadership Council of Africa, I find myself with revived and compelling thoughts on a united and multi-functional Africa. The Africa we want.
How do we, as young Africans, contribute to the realization of the Africa we want? How do we contribute to accelerating the implementation of all the recommendations and resolutions approved at this summit which has just ended? Will it be just another business conference without a proper action plan? “A roaring lion kills no game”, means that words and their echoes have no impact when there is little or no action.
How do we as Africans restore our dignity, and how do we regain the economic prowess to transform our natural resources and mineral wealth without Western intervention and exploitation, for the benefit of our continent and its people? How can we accelerate and improve cross-border trade, without oppressive restrictions, which hinder the socio-economic development of the continent?
A paradigm shift driven by youth
As young Africans, we have an obligation to restore and unite our continent for generations to come. Yet, in the wake of poverty and unemployment, most young Africans remain uncertain about their future.
Insufficient efforts to tackle unemployment are having adverse effects on the livelihoods of African youth. Africa has the youngest population in the world, with a median age of 19.7 years.
A study by the African Development Bank showed that in 2015, a third of young Africans between the ages of 15 and 35 were unemployed, another third had vulnerable employment and only 1 in 6 had wage employment.
Many years later, youth development still remains the most underfunded sector in Africa. Namibia’s youth unemployment rate is expected to reach 49% in 2022, according to the country’s econometric models. African governments have failed to view young people as resources rather than problems, leading to unrest, migration, economic decline, unproductivity and disunity.
On a continent where the oldest president is 86 and the youngest 44, it is high time that young people are empowered to actively and collectively facilitate the decolonization of institutions and act for the realization of the African Dream. Every battle won is fought first in the mind, but governments and NGOs can support this change by thinking beyond all existing development models.
Self-reform automatically leads to social reform – Ramana Maharshi.
Repositioning African youth as economic champions
Development is an endogenous process that emanates from extensive interaction between grassroots, organisations, the economy and other levels of the socio-economic order. There is an urgent need for reform in the area of investment and human capital development, starting at the local level. In retrospect, it takes a diamond to cut a diamond. Therefore, investment and development efforts aimed at youth productivity must focus on Africa’s previously disadvantaged youth, who are the raw treasures of this great continent.
The Intra-African Business Summit focused on key economic sectors such as tourism and hospitality, continental trade, ICT and industrialization, agriculture and food security, investment and finance . The mission is to eradicate poverty and create sustainable development and industrialization in Africa, with inclusive youth empowerment. This mission is primarily hampered by Africa’s persistent inequalities and poor government policies.
The AU Agenda 2063 identifies key areas that can transform Africa’s economic status. Encouraging and supporting young people in agriculture towards a self-sufficient and self-powered continent is one of the strategies that Africa needs to strengthen in the different aspects of the agricultural value chain. Moreover, we must collectively work towards the digitization of the continent, in preparation for the 4th industrial revolution. In fact, the world’s youngest billionaires come from the IT industry. Innovation is fundamental to rebuilding Africa after the Covid-19 pandemic and as such, young people with disabilities should take center stage in innovative and solution-oriented projects related to the travel industry and tourism in Africa.
“Aid for Trade”
Among the recommendations highlighted at the intra-African business summit concluded in 2022 was economic independence. Africa has exorbitant continental trade tariffs compared to other regions, which discourages intra-African trade.
In 2018, Africa’s total imports were around US$549 billion, with the largest imported product being petroleum and mineral oils valued at around US$60 billion, or 11% of the continent’s total imports. this year. Africa’s largest trading “partners” are China, the EU and the United States, highlighting a significant trade deficit. Ironically, these countries also happen to be the biggest donors of aid to Africa.
How can we put an end to generations of exploitation disguised as “free aid”, aimed at creating more dependence and the systematic destabilization of our economies? This is by rewriting the “aid” narrative as preconditioned by colonizers and Western imperialists, and redefining African trade to market our capital goods and currencies to compete globally.
In more ways than one, aid is misleading and debilitating. Moreover, charity must begin at home. So how do you become your own hero? Through unrestricted cross-border trade, ensuring that our resources move locally and continentally before they reach competitive international trade markets.
As young Africans, we must advocate for visibility and representation to expedite the implementation of all the recommendations and resolutions endorsed at this Intra-Africa Business Summit. These are essential steps to take when realizing the African Dream. It is quite obvious that we are very far from where we should be as a continent, but the vision remains clear. It is only through collaborative efforts and intercontinental trade that we can propel an African climate for Africans. It is indeed time for the African child to assume his responsibilities and to position himself in force for the Africa that we want. “As long as the night is, the dawn will rise” – African proverb.
*Twahafa Neshuku is a young Pan-African.