By Emma Okonji
The President of the African Export-import Bank (Afreximbank), Prof. Benedict Oramah, has challenged African youths to make proper use of emerging technology skills and the opportunities around them to liberate Africa from economic degradation.
According to him, the new Africa presents the continent’s youth with an excellent battleground to join and wage the economic struggle that will finally liberate Africa.
Oramah who gave the advice while delivering the 14th Convocation Lecture of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UniZik) in Awka, Anambra State recently, said just as Africa’s political struggle was led by the youth, so will the tech savvy youth lead the way for Africa’s economic emancipation. He spoke on the topic: “Unleashing the Power of the Youth”.
Youths, according to him, represented agents of change across the social, political and economic spectra and history and contemporary evidence had shown that they had always been the catalyst to economic transformation, constituting the largest proportion of the labour force and the population at the height of the industrial revolutions in the advance countries.
“History has shown that where the youth are given the opportunity, they have been the force for positive change. I consider the youth to be Africa’s greatest resource, an asset much more valuable than all the oil and solid minerals we so frequently celebrate,” Oramah said.
He quoted the statement by late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the former President of Nigeria after whom the university was named, that, “The immediate aim of African education should be to develop character, initiative, and ability of the youth of the country, so that they may be reliable, useful, and intelligent in the rapidly changing life and circumstances of their own people. Anything narrower than this must lead to a stagnant and menacing flood of unemployed and unemployable youth.”
Oramah noted that the ubiquitous social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; Tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft; and e-commerce platforms, including Amazon and Alibaba; were founded by people in their youth.
Youth-powered digital businesses accounted for about two-thirds of the US economy, one-third of the Chinese economy and eight per cent of the Indian economy, he added, saying that those companies were bigger in value than many African economies.
He however said that despite limited opportunities, Africa’s youths are beginning to make important contributions to economic transformation on the continent. The African versions of Steve Job, Mark Zuckerberg, Alexander McQueen and Calvin Klein were rising like the Phoenix while others, like Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Lily Alfonso and Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, all started making impact in their various endeavours as youth, he said.
Oramah, also highlighted the Nigerian youth-led entertainment industry which is making significant gains and inroads into the global scene and noted that Afreximbank had recently announced a $500 million Creative Industry Financing Facility, which was available to operators in the full spectrum of Africa’s creative sector.
That facility was expected to boost youth participation in the African creative economy, he said.
He, therefore, urged African youths to be prepared to take advantage of emerging opportunities under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and announced that Afreximbank had launched a number of initiatives and programmes to support African economies and the youth to maximise the benefits of the AfCFTA.
Those included an incubation lab being put in place to support innovation and help bring innovative products to market.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of Nigeria’s National Universities Commission and Chairman of the Convocation Lecture, Prof. Rasheed Abubakar, described Oramah as “one of the greatest minds” in our world today.