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.
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?
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.