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Africa’s future depends on its ability to meet the expectations of its young people


Africa’s future depends on its ability to meet the expectations of its young people

Africa’s future depends on its ability to meet the expectations of its young people
Photo credit: EIB

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s 2017 Forum report, Africa at a Tipping Point, finds the continent still making progress, but faced with a real risk of falling back. The future will depend, more than anything else, on Africa’s ability to harness the energy and meet the expectations of its young people.

Among the key opportunities and threats:

  • Today, 60% of the continent population is already under 25 years of age. By 2050, Africa will be home to 452 million people under the age of 25. Their drive, ambition and potential provide African countries with an extraordinary asset. But this demographic dividend is at risk of being squandered.

  • Too many young Africans feel devoid of economic prospects and robbed of any say on the future of their own continent.

  • The commodity cycle may have fuelled GDP growth for many African countries but it has created almost no jobs. Over the last ten years, while Africa’s real GDP has grown at an annual average of 4.5%, youth unemployment levels have remained high. Despite being the second-largest African economy, South Africa is not able to provide jobs for more than half of its youth population.

  • Young people have spent more years in school but few have been effectively equipped with the skills the economy needs. Despite having some of the most educated populations, with gross enrolment ratios in tertiary education over 30%, Egypt and Tunisia also have some of the highest youth unemployment rates on the continent, greater than 30%.

  • “Free and fair” elections have indeed multiplied over the last decade, but voter turnout is declining and scepticism about elected representatives is growing, especially among the young people.

  • Disenchantment with democracy and lack of economic opportunity form a “toxic brew”, bound to strengthen the appeal of migration and violent extremism.

  • Terrorism has become a well-organised multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise with growing control over the drugs trade, people trafficking and other parts of the black market. The jobs, status, income and feeling of “belonging” it seemingly offers to young people cut off from the mainstream economy may be more attractive that the ideology itself.

Mo Ibrahim, Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said: 

“The energy and ambition of Africa’s young people is our greatest resource and best hope for strengthening our continent’s progress. But their expectations could turn into frustration and anger unless they find a job and get a chance to influence their own future. Africa stands at a tipping point. The decisions taken now will decide whether our continent continues to rise or falls back. More than ever, wise leadership and sound governance are key.”

Ahead of the 2017 Ibrahim Forum, which is part of the Ibrahim Governance Weekend, the report sets the stage for high-level discussions between leaders from the public and private arenas, as well as influential partners based outside the continent. Based on this analysis, the Forum will address three priority areas that require leadership and sound governance:

  • the appeal of violent extremism and migration

  • the risk of a democratic recession

  • the need for an inclusive economic growth.

» Download: Africa at a Tipping Point: 2017 Forum Report (PDF, 12.8 MB)


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