Growing up in a typical Nigerian village, was an amazing opportunity for us to see Africa’s nakedness, her defeat, her shame and today we have become better positioned to see her rising from the ashes of poverty, defeat and shame. A few decades ago, only one in every 30 Africans believed in the possibility of the progress we’ve made today as a continent. I remember reading a short story that projected Africa as a “dark and hopeless” continent. Unfortunately, that short story was written by an Ethiopian author. I can’t imagine the level of damage that was inflicted on most innocent African young minds who read it. The author was a victim of the colonial era’s prejudice, an era I would prefer to call a dark age in Africa’s history.
Many of us today who schooled under such teachers, read such abusive books and were oriented into the white supremacy culture, still struggle to see hope in the Africa of today. But the truth is that we now live in a new time, with a new economic order. In this new time, everyone and every nation possess an unlimited potential to alter the circumstances of their birth or their nation to create the kind of life or nation that they want to see. It’s simply a matter of choice. The forces of globalization have liberalized wealth, power and success and have brought them to the reach of all who desire them.
In this new era, we have seen the gradual fall of once very powerful nations and the gradual rise of nations/continents who were once poor like Africa, and many of them poorer than Africa in human and natural resources. The rise of China, South Korea, Malaysia, India, Brazil, Thailand, etc. is eloquent testimonies to this truth. Africa has more and can become more than these nations have become. Call this mad optimism and you would be right. But this is simply how I see Africa.
From economic indicators, it has become clear that population is and will keep being a leverage for economic power. Africa will benefit from this because half of the world’s future population growth will be driven by Africa, not because of higher fertility which is declining across the world, but because of longer life expectancy. Africa’s population is expected to hit 1.9 billion by 2050. By 2100, 3/4 of the world’s growth is expected to come from Africa, reaching 4.1 billion people by 2100 to claim over one third of the world’s population. This means that the world’s marketplace in the near future is Africa.
With 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world; this population is expected to double by 2045 according to the 2012 African Economic Outlook. Among the 10 fasted growing economies in the world, six are in sub-Saharan Africa. More young Africans are growing interest in entrepreneurship and more are becoming tech savvy. Africa has more creative and energetic young people today than we saw four decades ago and democratic cultures are spreading rapidly. These are opportunities that we must tap into.
But today we have serious challenges that can turn these possibilities into potential obstacles. 70% of Africa’s youth live on less than US$2 per day. According to the African Development Bank (AFDB) and the World Bank, there is 6% unemployment rate in the Sub-Saharan Africa and 30% in the North and the Central Africa together. Youths account for 60% of all Africa’s unemployment. 82% of Africa’s workers are underemployed.
These are disturbing figures which may portray poverty and backwardness. But we must look beyond these figures and create opportunities that would birth a prosperous Africa. We are lucky to be born in an era when Africa has much challenges. One million challenges should produce more than one million millionaires who generate ideas that would create solutions and jobs. Africa should rise now and turn these numerous challenges into entrepreneurial opportunities. The whole world will be coming to Africa to trade in just a few years from now, and that is whether Africans like it or not. If we fail to believe in ourselves, develop our potentials and create solutions, foreigners would come in and create solutions for themselves and their countries and we will be slaves to them again. Beyond these challenges lies enormous possibilities and wealth. Let’s tap into them.