Africa: Accelerating into the Future

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

January 20, 2023

Images of hunger, drought and violence is what shrouds many people’s imagination when referring to Africa. This stereotyping is now being broken by young entrepreneurs and leaders who are delivering innovative ideas to address digital and socioeconomic gaps in the region.

The region is also home to other developing economies such as Mauritius, Seychelles and Algeria, according to World Population Review. Mauritius boasts a life expectancy of 75 years and a literacy rate of 91.3%, and is also known for free healthcare and schooling. “The Mauritian government approaches healthcare as a human right, and provides free public health services for primary care, with each household being located within 3 miles of a primary care provider.”

Africa is also home to the world’s youngest population. When compared with other regions of the world, only 5.6% of Africa’s population was aged 60 or older in 2020, while in North America it was 23.4% and double-digit percentages in every other region across the world. Even by 2050, Africa’s older population will only represent 9.3% of its overall population.

The large segment of youth presents a unique potential for the region to leverage on. Young people are taking centrestage in advocating for justice and equality and there has been a spurt in the influx of young entrepreneurs, who are rethinking the future of Africa.

Young Entrepreneurs Impacting Communities

The region is filled with stories of young entrepreneurs such as Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, who at the age of 23 launched a sustainable and renewable energy source for local farmers by producing eco-friendly and affordable briquettes and bio-fertilizers.

Another interesting story is that of Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa, a 24-year-old cancer survivor, who had also lost her mother to cervical cancer at age 13. All these experiences led her to found Chil Artificial Intelligence Lab in 2017, which offers mobile cancer screening services using AI-guided e-oncology solutions to detect cervical and breast cancer.

Realizing the increasing shift to emerging technologies, founder and CEO of iCreate Africa, Bright Naja, is empowering the youth of Africa to fill in emerging job roles in AI, blockchain technology, drone technology, nanotechnology, digital farming, etc.

Government Reforms

Governments in Africa are taking active steps in realizing economic recovery of the region. Kenya is one such country that has embarked on a path to an economically sound and sustainable future with the help of its Vision 2030 development strategy. “Kenya has undertaken important political, structural, and economic reforms that have driven economic growth over the past decade and will continue to do so in the years to come. By facilitating access to new markets, Kenya’s private sector can power the economy forward during a post-pandemic recovery,” said IFC Country Manager for East Africa and Malawi, Amena Arif.

The region is also becoming a strategic investment point for countries such as China and the US. China ranks way ahead than other countries when it comes to new jobs created in Africa in the last decade. Between 2010 to 2019, China helped create an average of 18,562 jobs annually in Africa, followed by 12,106 by the US.

The G7 summit in Germany in June 2022, announced a $600 billion lending initiative to fund infrastructure projects in the developing world, with a particular focus on Africa. Along with this, the world’s major countries such as the US, UK and EU have announced long-term infrastructure projects in the region.

Digitalization is Key

The rise of Africa’s digital economy is fueling new jobs for the youth while helping improve millions of lives and rapidly transforming societies.

IFC Managing Director Makhtar Diop recently said, “Africa is buzzing with innovative tech solutions that can transform people’s lives for the better. We’ve seen a surge in new business models and platforms in everything from health-tech to fintech. Yet over 80% of African startups report difficulties in accessing funding.” He further added that, “support for African entrepreneurship and digital transformation is essential to economic growth, job creation, and resilience on the continent and beyond.”

The advent of increased investor interest and shift to tech jobs among Africa’s youth, will prepare the region to bank on the fourth industrial revolution, potentially increasing the likelihood of the region to become an economic powerhouse.