Young African entrepreneurs on Wednesday expressed their doubts about the future. But, above all, they shared their hopes for our continent’s development.
They came to celebrate Africa Day, held on the side-lines of the African Development Bank Group’s Annual Meetings (23-27 May) in Accra. The young people presented their activities in various sectors (information technology, fashion and textiles, sports management) to the assembled leaders, and proposed their vision of the future.
“We need training centres on artificial intelligence, we want to produce medicines, we want to have the best training centres in engineering and science. We import things that young people in Africa can produce. We need to invest in research institutes and technology centres to produce what we want,” said Ida Padikuor Na-Tei, a technology specialist.
Awura Abena Agyeman, co-founder of a fashion and design company called Wear Ghana, said the industrialisation of Africa championed by leaders and pan-African institutions, can only be achieved if Africa processes its raw materials locally to add value. “Second-hand clothes will not allow Africa to industrialise. They don’t create jobs. Africa needs to work on locally produced goods to improve integration,” Abena Agyeman emphasised.
For sports journalist Owuraku Ampofo, sport is a unifying factor for the continent. Global sports gatherings have always demonstrated solidarity and unity among Africans. “Many young people want to leave the continent, not because they don’t like Africa, but because they want to work when they finish their studies, and they think that they will find a better job elsewhere. We must show them that everything is possible here and that they can earn money by staying in Africa.”
The artist Selorm, CEO of Selo Group, believes that Africa’s story can only be told by Africans and hopes to see a senior African leader speaking on international platforms in an African language. “It is up to us to promote our culture and sell our cultural wealth.”
The young people spoke on a panel to several senior African officials, including African Development Bank Group President Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the African Union Commission’s Deputy Chair, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, and Kenneth Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank Group.
Adesina said the Bank was working on establishing a youth investment bank to give young people more opportunities to train, invest, create jobs for themselves, and succeed on our beautiful continent. This project reinforces the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative (AFAWA), through which the Bank has made $420 million available for women’s businesses in 2021. This will be increased to $500 million in 2022, Adesina said.
According to Ofori-Atta, 950 million Africans are under the age of 34 and “our youth is our power, and we need to educate and train them to make the impossible possible”.