From the 3-5 May 2017, the world had their eyes on South Africa as the coastal city of Durban hosted the World Economic Forum on Africa with over 1000 global leaders from across the world. This year, the forum explored the theme of harnessing the opportunity to enable access and to empower the economically excluded in Africa by Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership, an economic opportunity that has bypassed millions of Africans.
The Future of Africa, Booming Youth
In attendance were young and old executives, entrepreneurs and WEF’s Global Shapers community whose presence was an opportunity in answering how we can employ one of the continent’s most valuable asset of its booming youth, and African leadership. As a young person, I cannot express how discouraging it was to see an overwhelming number of youth delegates who were in attendance, not having many seats at the WEF speaking series of panel discussions, I’m hopeful that 2018 will orchestrate a different story.
The 2015 UN Department of Economic Social Affairs, Population Division report revealed that the youngest country in the world at present is Niger, with half of the almost 20 million population under 15 years old. The country, with Somalia, Angola and Zambia will by mid-century be the youngest countries. Fast forward to 2050, and the continent of Africa will be youngest continent. In fact, as we speak, Africa has the youngest population worldwide.
I’m of the belief that in order to unlock the potential of Africa’s economic growth and development, the appropriate policies, strategies and investments must be employed to empower women and youth, as to complement the concept of inclusive growth and shaping Africa.
How do we include women and youth in the design of policy and solutions that’ll empower them and the continent? ONE Africa highlights the theme of the Demographic Dividend as an opportunity to employ the appropriate policies and investments in education, employment and empowerment, particularly for women and youth. To take it a step further and expand on the idea, ONE Africa hosted a WEF panel discussion that was moderated by their Africa ambassador, Bonang Matheba, shining the ONE Africa Inclusive Growth strategy of equity and equality of education and increased budget spend on education, and finance flows and transparency of it.
Unpacking Inclusive Growth
“For growth to be inclusive, it needs to touch the lives of many African people. For us to have inclusive growth, we need to ensure that people from the rural and urban areas, and informal and formal are also benefitting from growth. And we know that from a social and economic point of view, women across sectors face harder hurdles in getting education opportunities and work twice as hard in the workplace. For ONE Africa, growth that does include and recognise women, is not inclusive growth.” says ONE Africa Interim Director, Nachilala Nkombo.
In my conversation with Nkombo, the underlying theme of the exchange acknowledged that in order to achieve inclusive growth, it won’t be a silver bullet. Certain frameworks will not necessarily create jobs, but will create enabling environments for job creators and creations, as well as owners and drivers of production.
The Demographic Dividend at Play
In order to achieve the objective of the Demographic Dividend, to be in a position where the working-age population (also are economically engaged) have fewer dependants and more capital in the household, the stakeholders need to be they who have their objectives set on the opportunities of the African challenges with lesser lip service and more action.
Quite prominent in the ONE WEF panel discussion was the call to action from government, and the pot of gold promises they have, with lesser accountability strategy. Inclusive growth needs responsible and responsive self-organising leadership who have a sense of urgency, and an agenda and strategy of implementation and communication, to mitigate movements like #FeesMustFall . In my conversation with Nachilala Nkombo, the conviction of an empowered, skilled and knowledgeable youth population that’ll drive growth, create opportunities and drive change echoes is what ONE Africa has done, and the work and engagement being done at present.
For the ecosystem, investing in young people should be no afterthought but, instead, an opportunity to co-create with stakeholders (between corporate, private and youth sector) in policy creation and discussions that are centred around the real needs of young people.
This can be achieved with self-organising stakeholders that are building an environment that is conducive for creation of means of production and empowerment of lives through sustainable inclusive growth measures.