Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency Dr Ibrahim Mayaki has cautioned that despite a steady progress in economic development in a number of African countries, there’s need to address the issue of youth unemployment.
Speaking at this this year’s African Leaders in Dialogue engagement in Johannesburg, Dr Mayaki cited the example of Tunisia where despite high literacy levels, infrastructure development and agricultural-led growth, youth unemployment was one of the main triggers of the Arab revolution.
“Forty per cent of Africa’s youth is under 15 years old, while forty per cent of Europe’s population is above 35. That is why we need a different development strategy for the continent, bearing in mind the millions of youth pushing to the labour market every year,” he said.
Dr Mayaki was among a panel high level government and business executives, who gathered to discuss the role of private enterprise in nation building, under the theme “Africa determining its own path: A new role for politics and business”.
Organised by the NEPAD Agency and NEPAD Business Foundation (NBF), the Dialogue is an annual platform designed to engage with business on the implementation of NEPAD. This years’ event was sponsored by Absa Bank, one of Africa’s largest financial services providers.
Other panellists included South Africa’s Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, Chief Executive Officer of Barclays Africa Kennedy Bungane; Nicky Newton-King, Chief Executive of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Elias Masilela, Chief Executive Officer of the Public Investment Corporation and Stanley Subramoney, Deputy Chief Executive of PricewaterhouseCoppers Southern Africa, as well as Chairperson of the NBF.
Moderated by the international business channel CNBC Africa, panellists backed the view that doing business in Africa was key towards continued economic growth, political stability and development of human capital on the Continent.
“Africa’s public finances today are better managed than European public finances. Governance has also improved, and with some key priorities such as agriculture and infrastructure, but the main mechanism to drive growth of these and other priorities are private public partnerships, “said Dr Mayaki who also highlighted how NEPAD is integrating the Continent under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), regional infrastructure that is a catalyst for sustaining growth and development.
Deputy Finance Minister Nhlahla Nene stated that Africa was starting to show signs of improved political leadership, business stewardship and economic management and that NEPAD with its focus on regional integration could act as the key catalyst in un-blocking increased trade in Africa.
Nicky Newton-King, Chief Executive of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange stressed that the youth had the potential to be a great impetus for Africa's development, provided that appropriate investments in education and human capital are made.
Participants called upon Governments and business to find new and effective ways to harness the energy and creativity of the Continent by ensuring that job creation strategies are at the centre of doing business in Africa. They also discussed the role of African Governments in enabling investment on the Continent, while also the question of businesses’ corporate responsibility and social benefit to communities was prominent.
Ms Lynette Chen, CEO of the NBF, reminded the delegates that “Business and government need to reach an honest understanding of individual goals, objectives and expectations, if we are to achieve truly harmonious working relationships and conducive working environments for both sectors.”