Creating economic opportunities for young Africans is the most urgent challenge facing the continent, the Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mo Ibrahim, has said.
Ibrahim noted that young people in Africa were becoming disillusioned, and that this was threatening to undermine recent progress and creating widespread instability,
“What will happen if we do not provide jobs when the tsunami of young people currently in education start looking for work? We will see further migration out of Africa and an increased threat of extremism.
“African governments and businesses must come together, as a major of urgency, to ensure that we are equipping our young people with the skills they need take control of their futures,” he added.
Ibrahim said this while speaking at the 2017 Ibrahim Governance Weekend, a three-day series of special events hosted by the Foundation in Marrakech recently.
On his part, the President and Chief Executive of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, stressed the importance of policy stability for investment and growth, and in creating jobs for young people.
He added: “In business, unless you plan, there’s no way you’re going to execute. Nobody will go into a country where there is no stability and invest their money there.”
Also, the Chair of the Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, highlighted Africa’s vast potential.
She added: “If you look at the evidence, what we do not lack on the continent is aspiration. We are always about potential. What we need to do is make that aspiration real for our youth.”
At the heart of the weekend was the Ibrahim Forum that brought together leaders from across Africa and around the world to discuss “Africa at a Tipping Point,” new research from the Foundation that reveals a “defining moment in Africa’s progress”.
The report, launched earlier this month by the foundation called on African nations to harness the energy, and meet the expectations, of their young people to ensure that the progress of recent years was maintained.
The Ibrahim Forum explored three areas of particular concern for young people in Africa. The first session focused on the link between governance and terrorism, highlighting how the vacuum created through weak governance can create fertile ground for violent extremism.
Stressing the need for early intervention in areas of failing governance, the President/CEO of the International Crisis Group, Jean-Marie Guéhenno said: “Over time, chaos begins to set in and then terrorism prospers on chaos. Terrorism comes after a long period of neglect, and it is that neglect that prevention must address.”
Similarly, the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler said: “In mediation, we talk mostly to men above the age of 70. Youth is often totally detached from this process, but they are the majority of the population. They are not only the future of the country; they’re the present of the country.”
The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J Mohammed, called on young people to become more involved in the democratic process.
“We need an inter-generational transition. I don’t think people over a certain age should be at the helm of affairs looking at the future for people who are 60 years younger.”
The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, highlighted the importance of empowering women.
“A bird can only fly on two wings. Africa is going nowhere if it is only flying on one wing. We have got to enable women.”