In fact, the theme of the 9th African Economic Conference which took place in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia early this month (1-3 November) — knowledge and innovation for Africa’s transformation — aptly summed up expert views on what is required to harness the vast potential of African youth as critical stakeholders in Africa’s development.
“Africa’s development challenges are complex and interconnected. Knowledge and innovation are at the heart of solving these challenges,” says Eugene Owusu, UN resident coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative in Ethiopia.
“I believe Africa has the capacity to generate technologies and innovations that can spur economic growth significantly. However, we need participatory frameworks that involve the technology innovators and implementers working together.”
Owusu says six out of ten fastest growing economies would be from Africa if African countries and their government, partners and other actors invested in knowledge and innovations.
The delegates at the conference that brought together researchers, policymakers and other development experts from the across the continent held their deliberations say they are convinced that Africa’s growth could be greatly enhanced through investments in women and young people.
Such investment could help in knowledge management and speed up the adoption of available technologies, while spurring innovations in the future.
Ayodele Odusola, UNDP chief economist and head of strategy and analysis team, says there is a need to mobilise young innovators across the continent to share ideas and knowledge that contribute to Africa’s growth.
I asked Odusola: “But why do we still have a gap in youth and women voices in development models despite efforts for years”?
In response, Odusola said that to achieve success, Africa needs to go beyond mere number of women and focus on quality of women and youth involvement in development models.
Odusola notes that Africa has been doing well in terms of women empowerment, with some countries such as Rwanda going beyond 30 per cent representation. However, looking at the quality of representation is vital as this will empower women both politically and economically.
I believe Africa has the capacity to generate technologies and innovations that can spur economic growth significantly. However, we need participatory frameworks that involve the technology innovators and implementers working together.
Additionally, we should equip our research institutions to build more capacity for the adoption of existing technologies and the development of new innovations that can lead to sustainable growth.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa.