MBOYA: We must unleash the potential of Africa’s youth

Empowering Africa’s youth is one of the most serious challenges facing the continent today. Although many African countries are experiencing an economic boom, youth unemployment is at a crisis stage.

While we have made great strides in providing access to education, we have not matched this with access to jobs.

African youth are better educated than ever before, and with increasing access to internet and mobile connectivity, they are more exposed to Western ideals and aspirations.

Africa is experiencing a wave of senseless violence, brutality and crime, the outcome of frustrated youths who are struggling to fit into a world that does not have opportunities that match their aspirations.

We need to equip young Africans with the skills they need to thrive in the modern world. This is critical to move African countries from emerging to developed markets.

This rise in unemployment is proportional to the rising insecurity, hopelessness and despair that manifests in violence and insecurity across the continent.

It is worrying then when an estimated 50 per cent of Africa’s youth lack sufficient business and life skills needed to enter into a productive economic and social life.

The challenge is not just about creating more jobs, it is also about matching skills to jobs and, once in jobs, enabling youths to thrive in the workplace.

We can resolve these challenges firstly through private sector engagement. The private sector must expand opportunities for all young people, for example by finding opportunities within their value chain.

Secondly, the problem of youth unemployment can be addressed through creating opportunities for entrepreneurship.

Any solution to the youth empowerment issue must include a mechanism that allows young people to create their own jobs. To catch up with the developed world, Africa must grow faster and innovate more aggressively than ever before.

We encourage other organisations to unleash the potential of Africa’s talented youth through various initiatives, and in so doing, turn an emerging problem into a solution that will accelerate Africa’s growth and innovation.

The writer is the president of the Coca­Cola Africa Foundation.