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Why Africa must trust and support its youth to creatively drive its industrialization



Many young Africans are coming up with innovative solutions to the continent’s problems and should be trusted and supported to drive continent’s industrialization, participants at the 2018 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank heard in Busan.

How to leverage the continent’s youth to accelerate economic prosperity through industrialization was the focus of a session on “Bridging innovation and industry: African youth solving continental challenges.”

The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, set the tone of discussions as by highlighting how young people across the continent are generating new industries.

“Young people are not just the future of Africa, they are the present. They represent entrepreneurship and energy. This must be nurtured, harnessed and scaled-up to propel Africa’s industrial revolution and the Bank is here to harness that,” he said.

Badr Idrissi, a young Moroccan industrialist, co-founded ATLAN Space, a start-up that uses artificial intelligence and drone technology to solve some socio-economic problems. The innovation has helped Morocco to effectively fight illegal fishing.

“They say that artificial intelligence is not meant for Africa. We are here to prove that wrong,” Idrissi told participants at the session.

Idrissi used his 12 years of international working at Microsoft and Nokia to provide tech solutions, which in turn have created employment for several young Moroccans.

In Kenya, a young banker, Lorna Rutto, quit her job to co-found EcoPost, a social enterprise that has created thousands of sustainable jobs for people in marginalized communities, in addition to conserving the environment.

“I was inspired by what I thought was going wrong in my community. Trees were being cut down and plastic waste was all over the place,” Rutto told the session. “It was very scary for me to resign a good bank job, but I had to fulfil my ambition as an entrepreneur. That was when I developed the idea that waste was a resource and not a thing to throw away.”

EcoPost has so far transformed over 3 million kilograms of plastic waste into plastic lumber, saved over 500 acres of forest and helped mitigate climate change in Kenya.

Her business is similar to Edgail Inc., a successful Liberian company that was started by Abigail Urey to turn waste into manufactured goods for export.

Urey also presented his business model at the session, together with Zambian Mutoba Ngoma, Chief Executive Officer of Tapera Industries Limited, whose business converts vegetable oil into biodiesel and soap.

Adesina commended the young entrepreneurs for converting challenges into opportunities and urged them to continue representing the industrialization of Africa.

“The mass migrations of young people across the Mediterranean is not the Africa we want,” he stressed.