Geographies in Depth

The big questions for Africa's next three decades

Via-Juliana Akre, a 41-year-old a nurse, poses for a photograph  in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 3, 2016

Newborns in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Africa's population will double by 2050 - how can we make the most of this opportunity? Image: REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Gerald Chirinda
Executive Director, Tapiwa Capital
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There will be 1.3 billion more Africans by 2050, according to a UN estimate.

As a young African entrepreneur, what that number means to me is 1.3 billion more consumers of goods and services. This is a staggering increase that equates to more than double the continent's current population.

Africa needs to begin preparing and planning for this tremendous growth, not just economically but from a social and infrastructural perspective. Three decades from now, we as a continent surely cannot be singing the aid song. With the number of qualified Africans today who have received education and practical work exposure in some of the world's best institutions and corporations, we surely have what it takes not only to imagine, but to begin to shape the Africa we want to see.

We African millennials are now tasked with the responsibility of transforming the continent and growing the economy significantly for the benefit of future generations. This growth can and should be led by Africans, both in the diaspora and those back home. As someone who is and always has been based in Africa, I often engage in conversations with my peers who are now based in the diaspora, and I listen to how they dream and long for the day they will come back home and begin to make a difference. This is great and refreshing to hear - but without a timeline or commitment it will only remain a distant hope. I believe that when someone feels the need and the urge to make a difference, they should begin doing so from wherever they are and in the smallest of ways, rather than wait for a perfect time.

 Africa's population is predicted to keep growing for decades to come
Africa's population is predicted to keep growing for decades to come Image: UN, Tech Insider

One of the greatest assets we have as a continent is not our - undoubtedly valuable -minerals, land and wildlife, but our people. With many young Africans having spent their time acquiring knowledge and experience abroad and back home, and in different spheres of the economy, we should hopefully begin to see this pay off. These individuals are now equipped to lead the continent through what we hope is one of the most aggressive growth phases Africa is yet to experience. For this to happen, it is very important for those Africans in the diaspora who would like to be a part of this process and those currently in Africa to work together, as each will bring unique​ perspectives and skillsets to this building phase.

This process is intergenerational and the transition from the current generation of leaders, most of whom are liberation revolutionaries, to the millennials has to be managed well. The older generation of revolutionaries has to pass on the torch to the next generation in an organised and structured manner, and the question that the outgoing generation should ask itself is this: what legacy are we leaving behind? Is it one of selling their hard won independence for personal gain, or is it one of having created a foundation upon which the next generation can build?

I pose this question to African leaders, whether in government or business: what instructions are you leaving behind for the next generation of builders? Is there a blueprint for them to build from? Have you created an environment to allow them to build for generations after them?

What is the plan for the 1.3 billion lives that are going to be a part of our continent in the next three decades? This growth is going to happen and preparations either need to have begun or should begin now in order to accommodate it. That includes infrastructure such as healthcare facilitates, food production facilities, education institutions, affordable housing, access to clean water and access to electricity.

This is not work that Governments can do on their own - and so it requires them to create an environment of free enterprise which promotes and supports local innovation.

For this transition and growth to be managed well there are a few critical must-haves:

1. Vision

Without a vision, people perish. This is evidenced by the number of people we are losing as they flee their countries for greener pastures. What is the long-term vision for Africa? Can Africa's 54 leaders collectively say they have guaranteed a future for Africans for the next three decades and beyond?

2. Leadership

There is a proverb which states that all great leaders were once great followers. It is important that our leaders begin to model leadership for the next generation who are currently watching and following in their footsteps.

3. Culture

Our outlooks and beliefs shape us, and so it is important we develop a culture of trust, transparency, honesty, hard work, accountability, integrity and collaboration amongst ourselves. Africa should be synonymous with amazing culture.

4. Institutions

Managing a booming Africa will require strong and stable institutions. Weak institutions will produce a disastrous outcome on our continent. This is why plenty of investment must go into strengthening our institutions and the people who manage them.

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5. Action – think, plan and act.

This combination should be a guiding principle for us as we decide, plan and act on the Africa we would like to see over the next three decades. A vision that is not actioned or implemented will not be of benefit to anyone. Instead, acting on our well thought-out plans is what will see us prosper as a continent.

The Swahili word 'harambee' means let’s pull together. If all Africans begin to apply this principle, we will begin to make significant progress and reap the dividends of unity. The Africa of the next three decades is something I would love to see all Africans collectively begin to think, plan and act upon.

Fellow African millennials, at home and abroad, the next three decades are our responsibility. Let us come together and build for our children’s future. I remain confident that in my life time I will see a united, prosperous and peaceful continent. Harambee Africa!

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Related topics:
Geographies in DepthYouth PerspectivesEconomic Growth
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