African leaders must refocus youth empowerment to entrepreneurship – ADB President

Session of Presidents and Heads of States at the Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum
Session of Presidents and Heads of States at the Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum

African leaders must change from youth empowerment to youth entrepreneurship and investment, the President of the African Development Bank, Adewunmi Adesina, has said.

Youth empowerment is a euphemism for the practice of providing young people with starter-packs and other forms of support to learn basic trades and small businesses.

But, speaking at the panel session as part of the 2019 Tony Eluemlu Foundation Entrepreneurship Leadership Forum in Abuja on Saturday, Mr Adesina called on African leaders to consider changing to youth entrepreneurship and investment.

According to him, the new focus will allow them to mobilise the teeming population of youth in Africa, train them on entrepreneurial skills and expose them to decent investment capitals to enable them to establish businesses that will create jobs and grow the continent’s economy.

He challenged African governments to consider setting up a Youth Entrepreneurship and Investment Bank that would guarantee risk-free capital for young African entrepreneurs to establish and run businesses to create jobs.

Mr Adesina criticised the leaders of not doing enough to empower the youth, saying the time has come for them to make the youth the focus of their socio-economic development strategy in Africa.

“About 22 countries in Africa are growing at the moment at the rate of over 5 per cent per annum,” he said. “But, such growth rate does not tell the entire story about the continent’s prosperity and growth.

“Growth has to be one that creates jobs for the teeming youth population in Africa. We must begin to look for growth among the young people who will constitute 40-50billion of the world’s population by 2050.

“We cannot keep postponing the future of our youths into the future. We should begin to see the development of Africa beyond the risks. We must begin to put out capital into the hands of the young people of Africa.

“It is time for African leaders to begin to change from youth empowerment to youth investment. Our governors are not doing enough for the youth. They can begin to set youth entrepreneurship and investment bank.”

African leaders in attendance

Mr Adesina was speaking in a Forum attended by five Africa leaders, including Presidents Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Paul Kagame of Rwanda; Macky Sall of Senegal; Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda and Vice president Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria.

Also, in attendance was the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, and his Kwara State counterpart, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq.

Osinbajo calls for different narrative about Africa

During the Founder’s Presidential Dialogue as part of the Forum, Mr Osinbajo said reports about Africa do not often accurately represent the reality of life and opportunity.

He said the achievements of some of the young entrepreneurs from the Forum provides opportunities for capacity building to change the negative narrative about Africa.

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According to him, our school curriculums must begin to emphasize, not just Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but Critical Thinking and Entrepreneurship.

He said the proposal by the ADB President for the establishment of Entrepreneurship Banks must be kept.

While commending the Tony Elumelu Foundation for the initiative, the vice president said the initiative has compelled the government to focus on the youth and their dreams.

Rwanda’s development model

In the presidential dialogue moderated by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, the Rwandan President spoke of how his country managed to emerge from the ravages of war to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa.

He said their driving force was self-believe and determination of the people to unite and find solutions to their national challenge.

“When we looked back then, we found that there was no alternative to Rwanda. We sank so low that there was no way else to go to. The only way to go was up,” he said.

He said the first thing his government had to deal with was the reorientation of his people’s minds for them to believe in themselves and their power to come of their common problem together.

“We found a way to make them understand that as Rwandans, they have to be there for themselves. We had to build our systems ourselves. At the same time, we have to look for ways of doing things differently from what people are used to.

“With a change in mindset, our people were made to see the development as something we must do, or prosperity as something we must achieve.

Next, he said, they invested in their broken infrastructure and good governance to create the environment for investment and business.

“It was for us to convince ourselves that we can do it, and there was no alternative than do it ourselves,” he said.

TEF as catalysts for Africa’s renaissance

In her introductory remarks, the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, described the Foundation as a new movement across Africa, which is leading the continent’s renaissance on the wings of entrepreneurship.

She said the TEF, together with its partners, as the driver of the movement, is a catalyst to Africa economic development.

According to her, the initiative involves mobilising young entrepreneurs, mentoring them and putting seed capital of $5,000 in their hands and helping them create jobs in their thousands and generating revenue in millions.

“With $5 billion invested in African entrepreneurs, that will empower one million entrepreneurs who will, within 24 months, create 25 million jobs,” she said.

With 7,000 of the beneficiaries of the seed capital for the TEF Group, Ms Ugochukwu described them as the seed that has been sown to realise the great African dream of prosperity and progress.

“Through you, Africa will rise to take its rightful place, should to shoulder, as an equal partner as a valuable contributor to the peace and the prosperity of our planet,” she said.

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