By Segun Oruame
Africa is rich. But the wealth is not in its natural resources, cursed crude oil, gold etc – the bane of underdevelopment in the post-colonial years. Africa’s wealth is in its young people. Millions of them! Young! Curious and full of energy yearning to burst with ideas positively or dangerously creative; depending on how the creativity is directed and harnessed. This is home to the world’s fastest growing youth population.
For policy makers; public sector and private sector stakeholders, the question has always been just how to harness these boundless energy of young people into creative acts. One sector that holds much attraction is the ICT sector. Perhaps, no revolution has had as much impact on youth culture as has been ICT; not even contemporary pop culture/music which impact has invariably depended on the revolution that ICT has brought into global co-habitation.
Everything – our life, our culture, our attitudes, work ethics and social interactions and more; all have been reconfigured by the level of intimacy or intrusion that has come from ICT. When people talk about youth empowerment in serious circles, the discussions hinge on just how much empowerment can be achieved via exposure to ICT whether at the peripheral or more advance levels.
There’s no disputing the fact. Africa’s future which is just next day- not five or 10 years’ time: is youth with technology. That’s the future. While policy makers dither over just what approach to adopt in empowering young people, several forces and factors are already rallying together to achieve just that: the future.
From Nairobi to Lagos and Cairo to Cape Town, a plethora of innovation hubs are springing up, tapping into the existing talents; breaking economic, social and infrastructural barriers as well as bureaucratic bottlenecks to bring opportunities to young people to create solutions, initiate and nurture original ‘thinking’ into apps.
You know what?! Yesterday’s IT consultants that make regular faces at ICT conferences on the continents are no longer talking heads to a sea of sleepy listeners. Now, you can count them among the legion of Angel Investors crisscrossing the continent, seeking for young bright ideas and investing in innovations that are expanding the frontier of change. Change anchored on ICT.
A flourishing ecosystem for young developers and solution providers is evolving. You feel it at those fora that gather young innovative Africans together; those fora designed to discover budding technology entrepreneurs and make a glorious harvest out of them as drivers of Africa’s tomorrow economy. When you attend Angel Africa (http://www.angelfairafrica.com) and DEMO Africa http://www.demo-africa.com, you have a sense of Africa’s present and future all wrapped up in the gathering of its youngsters.
There is an exciting sense of fulfillment and confidence you feel when you click on Konga to do your shopping online or make a hotel or flight booking on Wakanow, or even follow Nollywood on IrokoTV. Our young has truly changed, redefined and still being reconfigured by the creative essence of our youth population.
Having passed through the evolution of the continent’s ICT sector in the last decade, you have this sense of triumph to see Africans like Eric Osiakwan, once just a consultant on everything Internet, becoming a team player at Angel Africa and serially investing in the innovations of young Africans; and Collins Onuegbu, founder of Signal Alliance, a very successful Nigerian IT company, now founder of Sasware, a company themed on promoting technology startups.
Africans are not waiting for African governments or public sector policy drivers to make Africa’s tomorrow to happen now. Historically, African governments have gained notoriety not to be trusted by the ordinary citizenry. It is interestingly comforting to see that those championing the continent’s future of youths with technology are largely private sector Africans with conviction that can’t be tainted by the long history of public sector failures.
If you ever need to know why Africa’s future is bright, go to Angel Africa (http://www.angelfairafrica.com) or DEMO Africa http://www.demo-africa.com, you will get an unassailable conviction for why you should be putting your money and energy here.