African Countries Must Mobilise Innovative Youth To Advance Development

'This is the ideal time to harness Africa’s innovation potential and mobilise our people to act.'
Dylan Martinez / Reuters

It takes a village to raise a child, and precisely 54 nations to develop Africa.

Our continent has come a long way in terms of development, but much more needs to be accomplished. Africa's dark history shows us that despite the many battles our forefathers encountered, they were still able to develop our continent. It has taught us that challenges will always exist, but despite this, we need to forge ahead with upscaling Africa.

Now is the time to up our ante, so that the coalition for collective action may be realised in our lifetime. In this regard, the African Innovation Summit, which takes place from June 6-8 in Kigali, could not have come at a better time.

On the downside, Africa struggles with a disease burden, drought and an armyworm infestation, but on the upside, we are extremely rich in mineral and natural resources and have been blessed with an ideal climate for agricultural production. Despite our lack of capital and infrastructure, we have an abundance of manpower, with research indicating that Africa has proportionally the largest population of young people in the world.

Africa's population continues to soar at a phenomenal rate, and already accounts for 16 percent of the world's population. At the heart of this lies eager innovative minds with digital expertise and a natural knack for technology. This is what we should be leveraging. After all, innovation is without a doubt the key to solving our troubles and seeking solutions to the burdens we face.

Yes, it takes a village to raise a child, but we need precisely 54 nations to develop Africa.

A prerequisite for structural transformation and sustainable development depends on African countries becoming innovation-driven economies in the emerging world. It requires an accelerated pace of change and hyper-competitive economies. Innovation needs to become a way of life and through which we can develop solutions to address challenges of development, poverty, health, food security, climate change, governance, productivity, water and so forth.

We need to cultivate our ideas, our youth and our technology to mature Africa and catch up with the rest of the world in the quantum age. Africa cannot outsource its development. It's up to our governments, our people and Africa's newly emerging middle class to get started. There's no doubt that Africa has a lot to offer. That's why overseas investors keep knocking on our door. But we need to maximise our assets, take advantage of our rising digital footprint and invest in our innovative young Einsteins.

This is what the African Innovation Summit (AIS) hopes to achieve. It is harnessing the innovation potential of the continent with the aim of mobilising people with the power to act into a coalition for collective action to promote and build an enabling environment for innovation in Africa. The goal is to engage as many people as possible in order to build a broad constituency in support of innovation in Africa. The basic fact is that Africa cannot outsource its development.

The AIS platform includes regular summits to promote dialogue, facilitate the exchange of best practices among stakeholders and African countries, showcase what is happening on the continent, and share lessons of experience. The platform also includes engagements with African researchers and scholars to undertake case studies and tease out lessons of experience in order to facilitate learning by stakeholders.

This is the ideal time to harness Africa's innovation potential and mobilise our people to act. Yes, it takes a village to raise a child, but we need precisely 54 nations to develop Africa.

Mimi Kalinda is a key speaker at the African Innovation Summit (AIS) and a thought leader in Africa.

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