Africa has the fastest-growing economies in the world as well as the youngest population expected to double by 2055. This growth presents an opportunity to transform this youth boom into a catalyst for industrialising Africa or it can undermine the progress that has been made. The real question is “what do we do with the youth and how to develop their capacity to unlock their potential to be positive agents of change and contribute towards job-creation?

Harnessing this youth dividend is therefore pivotal for Africa’s development. It is crucial that the public and private sector in collaboration with the youth need to identify alternative pathways to sustainable livelihoods. This will address the current challenges faced by the youth such as unemployment, inequality, poverty and social unrest. There is a need to build inclusive societies that allow young people to enter the workforce, generate wealth and be of service by participating in political systems.

For the youth to be a driving force for industrialization adequate investments have to be made in education, health, employment and good governance. Unlocking and optimising this potential also entails structural economic transformation that includes youth participation in strategic sectors such as the energy, agriculture, information and communication technology. Therefore the formulation and implementation of industrial policies inclusive of affirmative procurement and local content policies is key. Moreover, Africa must continue to leverage solutions to have greater participation in the existing value continentally and globally across industries.

At the nexus of a dynamic youth population and rapidly growing digital economies lies an opportunity to take Africa forward. Rwanda is an example of an African economy that is taking advantage of digital solutions to improve Africans lives e.g. using drones to deliver medicine. In addition, Africa has developed the most prolific mobile payment systems in the world, which presents a myriad of opportunities.

These innovative developments confirm that African countries have a unique environment and opportunity to transform their youth boom into broad-based poverty reduction, which can be achieved by investing heavily into skills and human capital. There is an urgent need to improve and support technical and vocational education that will empower youth to go after the jobs of the future. Furthermore, there are limited opportunities in formal employment and therefore the culture of entrepreneurship has to be fostered and the necessary support such as creating market access, and providing access to funding should be prioritized. It is pivotal that forward-looking strategies are formulated to create production jobs and build globally relevant skills bases to drive African economies.

The reality is that Africa is demonstrating tremendous promise – the youth dividend has the potential to unlock shared prosperity and fulfill the continent’s vision articulated in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 ‘The Africa We Want’. The continent needs sustainable skills, solutions and infrastructure to leapfrog into the mid-21st century and the youth are more than capable to drive industrialization towards Africa’s renewal.

About Selma Shimutwikeni
Ndapwilapo Selma Shimutwikeni is the Managing Director/Co-Founder of RichAfrica Consultancy. Selma is an expert in natural resources law and policy, Selma advises leaders across the public and private sectors on inclusive business strategies, economic development and investment in oil, gas and mining sectors. Prior to RichAfrica, Selma worked in the diamond industry in a public-private partnership Namdeb Diamond Corporation, and Howells Solicitors, a law firm in the UK. Her interests revolve around working with multiple stakeholders with a focus on problem solving in the natural resources sector. In particular, transforming natural resources into catalysts for sustainability and wealth in emerging economies.

Selma holds an LLM degree (international trade law) from Leeds University in the UK, and an LLM in Mineral Law and Policy from the Centre for Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP) at Dundee University. Her undergraduate qualifications include a BSc. in Business Management and Computer Information Systems from La Roche College in Pittsburg, USA.
Selma has been recently appointed to be the Ambassador for Women Entrepreneurship Day in Namibia, an event co-founded by the United Nations Foundation which aims to celebrate, empower and support women in business worldwide. Presently, RichAfrica is contracted by the Government of Namibia to review the White Paper on Energy Policy and to draft the National Energy Policy. Selma is leading the upstream and downstream oil and gas section of the Policy. In 2014, RichAfrica successfully hosted Namibia’s 2nd International Oil and Gas Conference under the theme ‘Unlocking & Optimising Our Resource Potential’.
In November 2015, Selma was featured in Forbes Woman Africa where she was requested to share her journey that led her to being a thought leader in the natural resources industry.

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