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Monday, June 13, 2016

Africa’s youth can make Africa rising real

The lion cubs of the savanna are on the prowl. The fastest growing economies are here in Africa. I have said this before. I will say it again. This is Africa’s moment. This is our century. Only Africans can squander the moment.

Africa is home to the youngest population in the world. The median age on the continent is just about 19, and is estimated to rise to circa 25 by 2050. Africa has youth and the juice. Africa is the future. Africa holds the canvas on which to re-draw the path of human development, restore our relationship with nature and heal the planet.

Africa is on the cusp of a demographic transition. In Kenya for example, about 78 percent of citizens aged between 18 and 35 have post-primary education. This is perhaps the best-educated generation in Kenya’s short history and encounter with literacy. Demographic projections also show that the working age population in Africa will exceed that of the regions of the world combined by 2035. But today the incidence of unemployment in East Africa is about 50 percent. 1 in 2 East Africans with a college degree is unable to find work.

While Africa is the least urbanized landmass, it is today the most rapidly urbanizing region of the world. In Kenya for example, the rate of urbanization is nearly 60 percent higher than the rate of annual population growth. Young Africans, men and women, are leaving the land lured by the promise of opportunity in new towns and bustling cities.

Africa is the hungriest and most malnourished continent. Over 250 million Africans will sleep hungry tonight. The irony is that Africa’s constitutes 25 percent of global arable land and yet we contribute only 10 percent of global food production. It is also estimated that Africa has nearly 600 million hectares of uncultivated land, which constitutes about 60 percent of the new agricultural potential globally. But Africa will also suffer the most damage to its land, water and vegetation resources as a result of climate change.

Africa’s is promise inextricably bound with what many people think is it’s Achilles’ heel: the world’s youngest population; the world’s hungriest population; the continent that will be ravaged by the impacts of climate change; rapid urbanization that is dominated by squalor, rapid GDP growth coupled with de-industrialization; and, youth unemployment that has reached a crisis proportion.

I believe this is Africa’s moment because we can break new ground and pioneer innovations that that respond to the climate crisis by harnessing renewable energy and ending our addiction to fossil fuels. Africa can break new ground, re-invent agriculture by developing crop varieties that demand less water, nutrients and pesticides, while nourishing millions of African children. Africa can break new ground because we can deploy the world’s youngest and brightest farmers to the solemn task of feeding the future while replenishing the planet.

There is in my view, infinite economic opportunities across agricultural value chains to deliver value for all actors, especially Africa’s youth. 

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