I bring you warm greetings from Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia, where we have the seat of the African Union Commission and which is indeed Africa’s capital city. I want to congratulate the Youth Advocates of Ghana for organizing their Third successful summit of which I am proud to be a patron (for the second time). Let me also commend the Youths of Africa, of which I am equally pleased to associate myself. Your level of consciousness is of extraordinary standards, and I would like to urge you all to keep up the excellent work you are doing in your various countries and constituencies around the African continent.
As the Executive Director of the Coalition on Media and Education for Development Africa Forum (CAFOR), I lend my full support and that of my organization to your cause, especially as it pertains to the implementation as well as monitoring and evaluating the global Sustainable Development Goals as they relate to the African continent. It was five years ago that the United Nations launched the global Sustainable Development goals. We are now left with ten years to achieve our goals with the SDGs. We still have a long way to go. The African Union which CAFOR is entirely associated with had earlier launched its Agenda 2063, which is its blueprint agenda that looks deeply ahead into the 50 years after the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 which is now the African Union. Agenda 2063 Africa’s strategic framework for its socio-economic transformation over 50 years. Its builds on and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.
These include the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16 – 25), the Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024), the Technical and Vocational Education Strategy for Africa (TVET. It is also built on national, regional, and continental best practices in its formulation.
With Agenda 2063, Africa will become a prosperous continent with high-quality growth that creates increased employment opportunities for all, especially women and youth. Through this vision, sound policies and more significant infrastructure will push Africa’s transformation by enhancing the conditions for private sector development and by heightening investment, entrepreneurship, and micro, small and medium enterprises. The question of leadership features here as any successful transformation requires visionary and determined leadership. Being our greatest asset in the continent, you the young people of Africa have a decisive role to play in all of this.
The stakes are high for the realization of this vision. Several economies on the continent remain fragile, and infrastructure remains underdeveloped. Many African economies still rely on raw materials, with a limited diversification of their productive structures. Poverty rates remain unacceptably high. Inequality is also high. According to the United Nations, six of the ten most unequal countries in the world are African. Recent global food crisis and continuing struggles with hunger in some parts of Africa, particularly in the Horn, stress the need for greater food security. Africa must also harness more of its capital – human, natural and financial – to invest in future development.
Besides, Africa’s population is young and growing, and a rapidly expanding number of job seekers will always be getting into labour markets. Population growth rates are even higher in cities, where an estimated 40% of Africa’s population lives, and estimated to increase by an additional 300 million people by 2030. Africa’s challenge is not only to create employment fast enough to keep pace with this population growth but also to provide everyone with the skills to join a productive workforce. We, however, know of the disconnection between the skills the school system produces, and the ones needed in the job market. Educational quality is often low. African students rank lowest internationally in reading and computational skills. The education system needs to enhance skills in traditional professions – such as teachers, nurses, doctors, and lawyers – and in sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics to support the rapidly changing demands of African economies. It is also urgently necessary to develop skills for micro, small and medium-term enterprises. To meet the SDG and Agenda 2063 targets, African institutions dealing in education must focus more on investing in science and technology. Support for technical and vocational training must step up and link to specific needs in the labour market, in both the formal and informal sectors, including the skills to create small businesses. They should also support programs for women studying in technical and scientific areas. These institutions must work with bilateral, multi-lateral and non-traditional partners as from now to leverage their development contributions in Africa, through co-financing thematic trust funds and other bilateral initiatives. Work must also continue with the private sector, foundations, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, and academia.
Today we have the Coronavirus pandemic or better known as COVID-19. This pandemic has accelerated a shift to new ways of working, prompting institutions, organizations, and companies to reexamine how, where and by whom work gets done. This shift was already underway with the technological changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As companies realize the new world of work that would emerge from this pandemic, they would also realize the benefit of this approach that values talent as a critical asset that contributes to an organization’s sustained value creation. This transformation calls for the development of a new human capital accounting framework. Such a structure should enable a business to track how investment in people can enhance the organization’s human capital and support the delivery of better outcomes for the enterprise, the workforce, and the wider community. We are, therefore seeing new ways of doing things. Hence, my staying in Addis Ababa to participate in this conference remotely rather than travelling to Accra, as I did two years ago to attend the summit.
This pandemic is a defining moment for leaders as they reset the workforce, restore stability, and strive to achieve growth sustainably to benefit all stakeholders. Although the crisis has had a highly disruptive effect on people and work, it also presents an opportunity to take enterprising measures to shape a workforce that is ready to deliver value to the country, organization, economy and society at large, as it journeys through the new realities.
There is an adage that tells us that necessity is the mother of invention. We see the need for a broad set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values in action now more than ever before. We must, therefore, embrace creativity in Africa. COVID-19 is telling us that the time has now come for us as Africans to engage in developmental activities engineered by ourselves to ensure the continent takes its rightful place in the world. We must do the things that we ought to do ourselves. We must, therefore, address adequately the growing need for young people to be innovative, responsible, and aware.
Following the COVID-19 experiences, African people should be able to think creatively, develop new products and services. In this respect, Africans would be in right positions to create new jobs, new processes and methods, new ways of thinking and living, new enterprises, new sectors, new business models and new social models. Increasingly, innovation springs not from individuals thinking and working alone, but through cooperation and collaboration with others around the world to draw on existing knowledge to create a new experience. Africans have experienced slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, and now COVID-19. We should therefore be in a better position to understand that the constructs that underpin the competency we are talking about here include adaptability, creativity, curiosity, and open-mindedness.
Finally, we must take responsibility now and stop blaming others for our ills and misfortunes. When we deal with novelty, change, diversity, and ambiguity assume that individuals can think for themselves and work with others. Equally, creativity and problem solving require the capacity to consider the future consequences of one’s actions, to evaluate risk and reward, and to accept accountability for the products of one’s work. Central to this competency is the concept of self-regulation, which involves self-control, self-efficacy, responsibility, problem solving and adaptability. Youth now becomes a time not just of vulnerability but of opportunity for developing a sense of responsibility.
I thank you all and wishing fruitful deliberations.
Remain safe always!