African entrepreneurs say the continent needs deliberate policy to draw its skilful youth into key productive sectors to create wealth and economic value towards Africa’s quick recovery from the pandemic.
They said such policies must attract the youth into areas like agribusiness and tourism with technological and innovative ideas.
This was said during a panel discussion at the 3rd edition of the Kusi ldeas Festival in Accra.
The panelist, all entrepreneurs, said that was the only way to solve the unemployment challenges that threatened the security of the continent.
According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, around 60 per cent of Africa’s population is younger than 25 years.
The Kusi Ideas Festival is a pan-African platform to examine the continent’s place in the world; its citizen’s problem-solving ideas and innovations; and how these prepare them (youth) to deal with the coming challenges.
Mr Herman Kojo Chinery-Hesse, Technology Entrepreneur and Founder, SOFTtribe, during the discussion, underscored the need for African public sectors to have a deliberate policy that empowered the youth in their technological drive.
He said Africa was not short of talents and creativity, but opportunities were barely available and accessible, indicating that the COVID-19 though had presented opportunities could take young struggling business out of operations.
“Many Africans have developed great ideas that need mentoring, training, scaling up and support to create wealth for the sub – region,” he said.
Mr Bright Simons, President, mPedigree, said the continent needed policy innovations that reflected Member States’ ideas with industry involved, particularly if the continent intended to thrive on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
He said the youth could understand and digest AfCFTA through technology and innovation, when there was political momentum and coordination from ministers, industry players, private sector and the youth.
“The latter could use technology to find solutions to irrigation challenges,” he added.
Mr Simons, however, cautioned policy makers not to turn the AfCFTA, which had a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at $3.4 trillion into a rhetoric venture, adding that, in leveraging on technological drive, the marginalised must not be left out.
Data from UNCTAD indicated that the continent’s current untapped export potential amounts to $21.9 billion, equivalent to 43 per cent of intra-African exports.
An additional $9.2 billion of export potential can be realised through partial tariff liberalisation under the AfCFTA over the next five years.
From the Kenyan point of view, Madam Anne Waiguru, the Governor of the Kirinyaga County Government, said the Kenyan Government had since the outbreak of COVID-19 put in place a digital system where farmers sold their produce due to restrictions.
She said they used smart and ordinary phones to collate data on the farm produce and send to the system for buyers to buy through mobile money in the cities, adding that some initiatives to lure their youth back into agribusiness using technology, were also put in place.
“The old system is being phased out, we are trying to encourage the young people to consider going into agribusiness,” she said.
Miss Maureen Mbaka, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, said aside having deliberate policy, they had innovative programmes in place for young innovators to access and connect with investors who would fund their projects.
This year’s Kusi Festival is the 3rd edition and was held in Accra.
The two-day event was a hybrid of virtual and in-person session on the theme, “How Africa transforms after the Virus.”