AfDB eyes enriching young entrepreneurs as $15bn fund is unveiled

AfDB eyes enriching young entrepreneurs as $15bn fund is unveiled

With over 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the largest population of young people in the world, with current trends indicating a doubling of the numbers by 2045. As the world commemorates International Youth Day this week, with the theme “Safe Spaces for Youth”, the African Development Bank reiterates its commitment to an inclusive and youth-focused economic transformation agenda for the continent. (Picture credit: Africa ME)

The African Development Bank has announced that in the next 10 years it will “galvanize over $1.5 billion annually in the next 10 years, to support young agriculture entrepreneurs (or agripreneurs)” in Africa.

According to AfDB, there are over 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, making Africa the largest population of young people in the world. These figures, according to projects, will double by 2045.

Reports also indicate that youth account for 60 percent of all unemployed Africans. Faced with challenges like unemployment and a harsh political climate, most youths have been prompted to flee their countries with hopes of getting a better life in the west, with some doing this under precarious situations.

AfDB has since realized Africa is exporting its future in droves, putting the future of the continent’s agricultural and industrial economy and Africa’s place in the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution at stake.

The new development, according to an official statement, is part of the of AfDB’s youth strategy, which is anchored on three key pillars: innovation, integration, and investment.

In 2017, AfDB President Akinwunmi Adesina President Adesina created the Presidential Youth Advisory Group to provide strategic guidance to the Bank on the implementation of its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy.

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The nine-member think tank is chaired by Ashish Thakkar, 37, founder and chairman of Mara Group, an investment firm with operations in over 20 African countries. A serial entrepreneur, Thakkar is also the author of The Lion Awakes: Adventures in Africa’s Economic Miracle.

The Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy aims to create 25 million jobs and benefit 50 million youth over the next 10 years by equipping them with the right skills to get decent and meaningful jobs.

“It is currently the largest effort going on for youth employment in Africa today,” says the official statement, adding: From 2016 to date, the Bank has invested over $400 million in both public and private operations to promote jobs for the youth in Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and other countries on the continent.

Investment over years

To make agriculture more attractive to young people, the African Development Bank has since 2016 invested over $800 million in supporting young entrepreneurs in agriculture in more than 15 countries, officials say.

As a way of accelerating Africa’s industrialization, the Bank is promoting special economic zones (SEZs) across the continent to attract investments for industrialization – zones that will need hordes of young workers to thrive.

According to AfDB, to transform their economies, African countries will require knowledge-driven institutions and the assets of well-educated and trained youths.

Currently, the African Development Bank pegs Africa’s infrastructure gap to be anywhere between $130 and 170 billion per year, but, the Bank says, proactive planning will be required to ensure that a significant share of these monies goes towards soft infrastructure, namely, healthcare and human capital.

The African Development Bank is also working swiftly to reduce the skills mismatches in the labor market. Over the last 15 years, officials say, the Bank group’s education projects have invested over $1.64 billion in programs benefiting 6 million African youth and women, equipping them with the right skills for the jobs of the future in the ICT and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) industries.

Working with Facebook, Microsoft, and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bank in February 2018 embarked on a plan to launch 130 Centers of Excellence across Africa as part of its Coding for Employment Program. These centers will address the mismatch between skills of Africa’s youth and the hiring needs of employers.

There is a Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-Donor Trust Fund which, according to officials, will serve as a financial and operational instrument for its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy, with the initial support of US $4.4 million from the Governments of Denmark and Norway.

Another initiative of the Bank (announced in 2017) is the development of the Enabling Youth Employment (EYE) Index to measure youth employment outcomes and enabling policies at country levels across Africa. The scorecard will using evidence-based research, provide decision-makers with policy recommendations to increase employment opportunities for youth.

Entrepreneurship forum

The AfDB has also revealed that in November it will launch the Africa Investment Forum, a marketplace for investors interested in Africa.

The forum, scheduled from 7-8 November in Johannesburg, South Africa, will showcase bankable projects, attract financing and provide platforms for investing across multiple countries, according to officials.

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