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African Youth- Opportunity or Challenge?

Gift Lubele

According the World Economic Forum, Africa will be home to more than 1 billion young
people between the ages of 15-24 in 2050. With unemployment being the most significant issue currently facing the African youth today, will an increase in the youth population be the biggest challenge the continent will ever face or presents an opportunity of an exponential growth? As a young person and an emerging entrepreneur , I firmly believe that an increase in the African youth population will enhance the way people do business, break down the traditional barriers in the market while serving as a driving force for rapid economic and technology growth on the continent.

When His Excellency Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon which
you can use to change the world, he fully understood its utmost importance in society,
particularly in Africa. Unfortunately, there is still inadequate education in the continent and to some no education at all . Almost 60 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school with girls having more chances of not going to school than boys, the rate of gross enrollment in tertiary education in sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest in the world, sitting at only eight percent as of 2014 and just 72% of students complete primary school. This is very heart downing given the fact that too many families in the continent, education is the only hope to break the generational poverty that they suffered from for decades.

Poor education in the African continent is one of the leading and direct causes of
unemployment, with lack of knowledge and skills the youth becomes hard to employ. Over the past 10 years, the unemployment rate in Africa has grown by more than 5% with youth unemployment being the major contributor to the figure. The challenge of poor education even affects those who are in school because many educational institutions still teach outdated skills that do not prepare the youth for future jobs. This makes it extremely hard even for graduates to find employment because they don't have the skills the employer needs, in fact in 2016 during Africa’s Transformation Forum in Kigali,Kelvin Balogun – President of Coca-Cola, Central, East and West Africa – said Almost half of the 10 million graduates churned out of the over 668 universities in Africa yearly do not get jobs. He went to say that corporate bodies like Coca-Cola have a role to play as the company employs about 70,000 Africans and has programmes to train and recruit interns every year. This goes on to show that traditional education alone does not guarantee employment.

I am aware that there are many predicaments in our continent, but I still do believe that an increase in the African youth population will enhance the way people do business, break down the traditional age barriers in the market and will be the most significant economic growth contributor here is why. There has been an exponential growth in innovation, creativity, and technology over the past years in Africa, by technology I am not only referring to ICT or mobile penetration, but any tool that makes work or life more comfortable, and keeps us better informed. Technology brings access to information to the African youth and with access to information comes global opportunities.

The number of mobile phone subscriptions in Africa jumped from 16 million in 2000 to 376 million in 2008, and by 2020, this number is expected to hit over half a billion, making Africa the fastest growing mobile market. The adoption of the cell phone has been essential in improving agricultural labor market efficiency and increasing producer and consumer welfare in Africa. Mobile phones can create more jobs by increasing the demand for mobile-related services. Klonner and Nolen, for example, found that the introduction of mobile coverage in South Africa was correlated with a 15 percent increase in employment. With more young people having more access to the digital world, global connections and opportunities are a tab away.

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