Africa has the obligation to use its most viable resources to fund its own developmental agenda, and vision. These resources are by the way not the minerals such as gold and oil fields or the vast tracts of arable agricultural land or the ideal weather climate, but the 60% percent plus youth population, which can constitute the greatest think tanks the world has to offer.
These are some of the highlights from the Young African Think’rs convention, which kicked off yesterday at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.
The initiative is “a movement of inspired youth across the continent, who are highly convicted by Africa’s vision and the potential within them to bring it to reality. It is a movement against ignorance, which pushes for an intellectual revolution in the continent by birthing a generation of critical thinkers and solution finders”.
The convention is premised on pushing for the realization of Agenda 2063, a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent for the next 45 years. The convention has the mandate to ensure African youth know, understand, capture and take on this vision, or risk being excluded in efforts to implement the sustainable development agenda.
The first convention was held in 2016 through the partnership between Beza International Ministries and the African Union Commission (AUC). It marked the AU’s celebration of the International Youth Day.
This year 130 participants drawn from 14 African countries are attending the convention.
Speaking at the convention, Zerrubabel Mengistu the President of Beza International Ministries reiterated how great think tanks in African can turn around this generation from begging and relying on western countries to run their economies.
“Africa is rising and ready to take a seat among the great nations in the whole world,” he said.
Mengistu drew from Dr James Magara’s book, Positioning Africa for the 21st Century: The Pivotal Role of Leadership and Think Tanks. The book explores the concept of think tanks and suggests roles think tanks can play in the development of African countries. Magara compared Asian and African countries, which gained independence around the same time and have similar resources.
Reviewing the book, Professor Vincent Anigbogu the Director General at the Institute for National Transformation International in Nigeria said Magara brings to the fore one of the “fundamental issues that has restricted African development in the last six decades”. These include limited capacity of indigenous state, and non-state think tanks in providing the planning framework that translates developmental aspirations, and priorities into concrete results in terms of national policies and programs.
The young leaders are trying to deal with what they call a “leadership crisis” on the continent which can easily be exacerbated by the docility of youth. If youth make up the majority of the population, and have no opportunities to create think tanks, innovation, entrepreneurship and employment, then the future of the continent would be doomed. The International Monetary Fund reports that the continent will account for 80 percent of the projected 4 billion increase in the global population by 2100. This is therefore an increase in its working age population which creates a window of opportunity to translate into higher growth and yield a demographic dividend.
Dr. Natalia Kanem of the UNFPA says the hope of course is that Heads of State and Government in Africa have committed to harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth and proclaimed the upcoming decade as the “African Decade for Technical, Professional, and Entrepreneurial Training and Youth Employment”.
If this is achieved Africa will indeed rise.