Since 1998, the World Bank and its World Economic Forum have been publishing the “Africa Competitiveness Report,” which is released every two years after members of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund meet to issue forecasts for global economic growth.
In 2017, the report presents a positive outlook for the Continent, and this is a welcome development when considering that economic growth in the last few years has been subdued due to various factors, particularly the global financial crisis, as well as armed conflict and political instability in many African nations.
The opportunities are clear: Africa enjoys a young populace that is eager to work, grow, develop, and prosper. To put things into perspective, the report cites an important statistic: by 2030, the working population of Africa is expected to reach 450 million. Clearly, Africa has a youth advantage that can be a catalyst for economic growth; nonetheless, the continent faces some challenges that are incumbent upon the international community.
Slow Progress No More
In Africa, the lower price of commodities caused the overall economy to slow down significantly until 2015. In previous editions of the “Africa Competitiveness Report,” the focus has been on infrastructure development; in 2017, job creation and helping remote areas are the new crucial areas of economic interest.
The forecast of economic progress for Africa suggests that the pace will pick up thanks to entrepreneurial development; this has already been observed in nations such as Kenya, Ghana and South Africa, where the tech startup scene has inspired promising projects. This entrepreneurship trend will create some employment opportunities, and it will continue to develop at a very fast pace because it attempts to emulate the speedy Silicon Valley model.
Economic progress in Africa is expected to be fast because it needs to be. With its youth population growing at a very fast pace, political leaders need to think about what could happen if young people are not given something worthwhile to do with their lives.
The African Development Bank estimates that it can create 25 million jobs within eight years; to this effect, international consultancy organizations such as the McKinsey Group are operating training programs in various nations, but there are serious concerns about the ability of governments to encourage their private sectors to hire young workers.
The Real Challenges of Education
For organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the opportunity to educate young Africans has never been greater; still, all the education and training they provide needs to have a greater economic purpose. Innovation rarely comes out of isolated places, which are unfortunately numerous in Africa. Education can only do so much in remote parts of the continent; more needs to be done at the government level so that educated people will have something to do.
With countries such as Rwanda, the Ivory Coast and Ethiopia expected to elevate their gross domestic product by seven percent, national leaders should call for an investment of at least one percent into research and development. Innovation needs to tackle issues such as famine in parts of Nigeria and Somalia, extremism in South Sudan, and corruption in Zimbabwe.
The real challenges of education in Africa is that many communities are not ready for it. Before setting up classrooms, governments must be able to tackle humanitarian crises such as droughts and famine, and they must be able to stop the rise of armed groups who harbor extremist doctrines.
In the end, trade agreements, research and collaboration projects need to be the primary focus of African governments. Youth should be nurtured as a national treasure for the sake of economic growth and prosperity.