‘AFRICAN youth are not waiting for any reforms to happen. Our moment is now. The African continent offers tremendous business opportunities and we are committed to developing quality products and services,’ said Abigail Urey, Edgail CEO and co-owner from Liberia, during the youth-led event on Day 1 of the just-ended African Development Bank Annual Meetings in Busan, South Korea.
The event, Bridging Innovation and Industry: African Youth Solving Continental Challenges, centred on the potential of African youth to accelerate Africa’s industrialisation.
Three hundred participants, including ministers, CEOs and youth leaders engaged the speakers on their stories, challenges, and views of the roles that stakeholders could play in harnessing the potential of young entrepreneurs.
AfDB President Adesina emphasised the need to trust and support Africa’s youth, saying that the African Development Bank should utilise financial instruments to de-risk African businesses owned by the youth. ‘Africa’s youth are worth taking the risk on.’
Young businesses thrive with the right support – financial backing with the appropriate enabling environments, including conducive policies and regulations.
Additional enablers for youth entrepreneurship that emerged during the discussion included education and training, business support and advice, promoting and facilitating female entrepreneurship and ICT and technology, among others.
During the question and answer session, it became clear that traditional models of financing businesses would no longer suffice to nurture upcoming African entrepreneurs. The speakers emphasised that banks and stock exchanges needed to shift their approach to financing and listing businesses to accommodate the growing number of youth-led businesses.
In response to the challenges raised by the speakers, Samy Zaghloul, Dean of the Bank’s Executive Directors, proposed that the Bank could create a venture capital fund and coaching for young African entrepreneurs.
Lorna Rutto, CEO and co-founder of EcoPost, emphasised the connections between business, the circular economy, and green growth, saying, ‘Waste is not waste until it is wasted.’ She further encouraged African youth by asserting that, ‘Success begins with a will. Go out there! Start something! Be fearless!’
Describing the trajectory of his growing company, Mutoba Ngoma, Zambian founder and CEO of Tapera industries explained, ‘We started with 50 farmers and now we are working with 1800 farmers. In the next 3 years, we plan to expand our out-grower scheme to 20,000 farmers to produce 5 million liters of Jatropha oil per year.’
Badr Idrissi, Atlan Space CEO, emphasised the changes in employment due to artificial intelligence from the traditional blue and white-collar jobs to new-collar jobs. People will increasingly need emotional intelligence and creativity to navigate and take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution.