Africa is a rich, diverse and promising continent – but it is beset by many challenges, key among them a youth unemployment rate that is estimated to be well above the global average. A recent report estimates that 10 to 12 million African youths enter the workforce each year, but only about 3.1 million jobs are being created. The report also indicates that Africa’s youth population is expected to double to more than 830 million by 2050. Many of these young people are excluded from the labour force for reasons such as lack of skills or work experience. Chronic unemployment perpetuates the cycle of poverty and limited life options, and promotes crime, risky migration and other challenges, not just for Africa but for the rest of the world.
But development and the creation of wealth, as has been demonstrated in other regions of the world, especially the advanced nations, is not rocket science. Young people in Africa have the potential, the ability and the desire to thrive like their counterparts in other parts of the world, but they are held back by the absence or inadequacy of the factors necessary for growth.
These factors include: a. An enabling environment (i.e. smart regulation, infrastructure, and media); b. Mentorship; c. Access to funding (especially for startups); and most importantly d. Education.
And yet, youths are a great asset for Africa – and Nigeria in particular – and can be harnessed for the growth and development of the continent. The good thing is that our youths have a strong drive for learning new things, entrepreneurship and innovation. In this, one can even say that Africa has an advantage over other regions of the world. Why is that? Here in Africa, there are fewer barriers in the way of innovation, which means we can leapfrog to develop new business models and technology from a relatively clean slate.
Unfortunately, the majority of these vibrant youths do not possess the necessary skills to create or leverage on these new technologies. Hence the need to educate the youth (and even the older generation) on the tools they need to launch our nation and continent into a better future – truth being that the economic structures of today will not be able to support the young and growing population of tomorrow.
All over the world, software engineering skills are in short supply relative to demand; it is estimated that in the US alone, there will be about one million software engineering job openings by 2020. In particular, the demand for blockchain developers will continue to increase. So, empowering African youths with blockchain skills in software development and other new technology is our best chance to leapfrog into the future. Such empowered youth will enable the continent to truly reap the benefits of revolutionary technologies that are set to define our individual and future – whether we like it or not. This will have far-reaching effects in unlocking intra-African trade that could facilitate the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), create a more inclusive financial system, streamline healthcare services and other benefits.
This is why the Africa Blockchain Alliance (ABA) came into being. ABA is a passionate and forward-looking organization with a mission to equip Africans with the most qualitative and result-oriented blockchain education, expertise and tools to enable them to build a thriving blockchain ecosystem on the continent. ABA provides a platform for blockchain experts, African organizations – both in the public and private sector – and other stakeholders to learn from one another and explore various blockchain use cases within the African context, and having Africa’s unique circumstances and markets in mind.
ABA’s vision is to help create an integrated and interconnected Africa characterized by the free movement of goods, services, personnel, knowledge and resources to uplift our peoples as well as equip them with the best blockchain education, acumen and tools to shape their own futures and that of their communities and nations. It is ABA’s belief that technology, particularly blockchain, holds great promise for that future, hence its fervent advocacy for a blockchain developer program custom-tailored for Africans. Known as the Ethereum Developer Programme, this educational course – established in partnership with ConsenSys Academy – aims to give our youths the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to become industry-ready blockchain developers armed with the skills necessary to add significant value to their organizations, businesses, and make them marketable to top blockchain companies across the globe. This course is being offered at a much more reduced rate for Africa in order to foster diversity and inclusion. ABA is working with our network of partners across the continent and in the diaspora to provide mentorship and support activities in the course of this programme. On successful completion of the program and submission of a blockchain project, graduates of each successive group (known as a cohort) are issued with their certification on the Ethereum blockchain. Blockchain and other disruptive new technologies have created a shift in the way businesses in every industry will be carried out.
Africa, a continent still grappling with so many existential challenges, stands to benefit the most from this revolution because of the transparency it provides; in fact, there are even projections that it could change the way elections are conducted, not just in Africa, but around the world. In many African countries, where systems and transactions are so prone to fraud, blockchain could be used as a replacement system – to help regulate static registry systems for items such as land and patents, as well as the dynamic registry, such as the drug supply chain which for years has suffered the problem of counterfeit drugs. With the speedy adoption of blockchain technology across nations, it is certain that transactions will be carried out across the globe with greater assurance of integrity – which, in turn, will bring about more robust international relations and holistic economic growth.