Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) of Rwanda, speaks during the opening ceremony of YouthConnekt Africa Summit in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, on July 20, 2017. Delegates attending the inaugural of YouthConnekt Africa Summit in Kigali on Thursday called on African countries to enhance the potential of young Africans in order to achieve a prosperous continent. (Xinhua/Li Baishun)
KIGALI, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Experts and officials on Thursday urged the African youth to focus on entrepreneurship and job creation in order to exploit and utilize the multi-million opportunities offered at the continent.
They made the call at a panel dubbed "How do we get to 50 million jobs by 2020?" during the inaugural of YouthConnekt Africa Summit that formally opened on Thursday in the Rwandan capital Kigali.
"The future of young Africans lies in Africa, not Europe or at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Our African youth should be at the forefront of job creation by being innovators and entrepreneurs," said Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank (AfDB).
He called on the youth to venture into agriculture income generating projects and create more employment saying that agribusiness has become a lucrative business in the developed economies.
"If we don't show confidence in our young people, who will do it? African Development Bank is committed to create a good financing vehicle to support African young entrepreneurs and innovators," Adesina said.
Entrepreneurship, job creation, among young people hold key to address high levels of unemployment which would reduce poverty and accelerate the continent's growth, said Vera Songwe, executive secretary of Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
"We must challenge the African youth to seize opportunities created by the continent's growth in order to create a better future for themselves and Africa. Africa's economic dynamism, young population and potential for entrepreneurship and innovation form a strong foundation for the future Africans want," she added.
Entrepreneurship and innovation among the youth is an engine of social and economic transformation of Africa which should be harnessed, said Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian economist and entrepreneur,
"I encourage young people in Africa to work hard and turn their entrepreneurial dreams into working businesses. African economies should create a conducive environment, and fix challenges like lack of access to finance, market and electricity, in order to enable the youth to exploit their talents," he said.
During an interactive panel session, young African entrepreneurs committed themselves to drive the youth connect Africa agenda and create jobs for their peers in their respective countries.
Around 200 million of the 1.2 billion Africans are youth aged between 15 and 24 years who need to be well groomed and nurtured for the better future of Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assistant administrator and director of the Regional Bureau for Africa Abdoulaye Mar Diye said at the summit.
Statistics of the World Bank indicated that Africa also has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, which stands at 60 percent.
The three-day YouthConnekt Africa Summit is organized by the government of Rwanda, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and UNDP. The summit from July 19 to 21 is dubbed: "Realizing Africa's Youth Potential."
It attracted about 2,800 participants including top executives from multinational companies that operate in Africa, leaders of civil society organizations, Africa's development partners, members of the academia, successful entrepreneurs, youth entrepreneurs, members of start-up companies, artists and youth opinion leaders from 90 countries across Africa and beyond to interact and discuss on enhancing the potential of the youth in Africa, according to the organizers.
Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma, one of the world's leading entrepreneurs, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group is also expected to be among key guest speakers at the event.
The summit is designed to realize Africa's demographic dividend by combining elements of skills development, entrepreneurship, access to jobs and finance, awareness raising on issues related to youth development, and promotion of youth citizenship and leadership, said the organizers.
By changing mindsets, engaging youth in national policy, fostering solidarity, engaging youth in delivering SDGs, YouthConnekt Africa will empower 200 million African youth to take a more proactive role in shaping their future, according to the organizers.
The first YouthConnekt Africa Summit is expected to initiate the roll-out of the program across the continent.
The summit will also mark the launch of the YouthConnekt Africa Hub, which will offer regional support to national YouthConnekt Programs and the YouthConnekt Africa Empowerment Fund, an initiative to empower young people in Africa to impact their communities.