Over the next 30 years (2020-2050), young Africans will be both an encumbrance and an opportunity for Africa. However, with innovation, many economists on the continent believe that young people are rather the future of African growth. To that end, African states must equip young people with agile and sustainable skills so they can start their own businesses.
By Farai Diza, Johannesburg
According to a report by the Anzisha (Africa’s biggest award for young people aged 15 to 22 with a budget of US$100,000), of the 2.1 billion people expected to join the world’s population between last year and 2050, half will be in Africa, where access to stable economic opportunities remains limited.
For its part, the World Bank estimates that the youth segment accounts for 60% of the total number of unemployed in Africa.
However, one category of young Africans is breaking down barriers by creating businesses from scratch. Economists see this as the future of the continent’s economic growth.
Dr. Warren Nilsson, associate professor focusing on social innovation at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB), said African youth agreed that innovation is crucial to the sustainability of businesses.
“Many young people believe that business innovation is the preserve of European nations. However, the dynamics have changed and attitudes have evolved. We are now seeing the emergence of innovative business concepts. We have young Africans making smartphones. That was unimaginable ten years ago,” said Dr. Nilsson.
The innovation ranges from agriculture to sewing, mining, construction, and more. This is the only growth phase these graduates have, because they are right-holders in the financial stratosphere.
Creating small businesses with little capital
Many university graduates find themselves unemployed for more than five years. This is after spending four years earning a university degree and accumulating student loans. The only alternative for them is to create their own jobs.
Ayabulela Mabunda, 29, native of South Africa, graduated from a major university, but had difficulty finding a job. After eight months of unsuccessful attempts, he went into business, creating an atypical daily activity: sneaker cleaning. Now he owns a workshop where he employs three people.
His business is quite innovative and has provided him with a decent monthly income. He has even been able to buy a car thanks to the company’s income.
Equipping youth with agile and sustainable skills
According to global statistics, automation and the demand for skilled labor will undoubtedly put enormous pressure on the precarious employment landscape in Africa, particularly with regard to the youth population.
The alternative is skilled youth entrepreneurship. Moreover, it is common knowledge that the number of higher education institutions which now offer studies on entrepreneurship has increased.
In terms of skills development, entrepreneurship education equips young people with agile, sustainable and transferable skills that can be adapted to changing environments.
Jobs can only be addressed through innovative entrepreneurial skills and a willingness to contribute positively to GDP.
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