Are youth shaping Africa’s future? 

Lethabo Sithole, host for Iron Sharpens Iron podcast. PHOTO | Courtesy

Do African youth have requisites to power the much-desired economic transformation? 

This is one of the key questions young people from across Africa want exhausted as they join a new platform to discuss their potential and challenges holding them back from meaningfully participating in development of their respective nations.

The peer-to-peer conversation in form of a five-part podcast series dubbed Iron Sharpens Iron kicked off on major streaming platforms last week. 

Next episodes will air on the 25th of every month for the next 17 weeks, organisers who include YouthConnekt Africa and Nestlé, said.

The former is a platform designed to connect African youth for socio-economic transformation, while the latter is a global food and beverage company.

The first episode on May 25th brought on air entrepreneurs Tafadzwa Chikwereti, a tech farmer from Zimbabwe who uses WhatsApp to build and maintain his market, and Rachel Kaunda, a drone pilot and founder of Drone Link from Malawi.

The duo delved into details of how African youth are driving innovations and digitilisation on their own terms, in addition to prevailing bottlenecks ranging from limited access to funding and wanting education quality, among others.

Innovation and digitilisation mainly refers to the creative and transformative use of technology to address societal challenges, create economic opportunities and improve the livelihoods of people.

Funding constraints

“For instance when I was starting Drone Link, I did not have drones and they are very expensive. I had to hire drones to do my work until I got enough revenues to get a drone,” Ms. Kaunda told podcast host Lethabo Sithole.

“One of the things governments can do is to provide access to funding and capital. A lot of youth in Africa are having challenges developing the prototypes and also having their production equipment because banks require collateral.”

She also indicated that governments should ensure quality education that help youth to innovate and tap into the digital market potential, in addition to promoting use of production by the youth locally.

More than 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, and there is a total of over 450 million youth on the continent, a number that is expected to rise significantly to constitute 42 per cent of global youth by 2030, suggest official data.

They are seen as the continent’s greatest resource, if empowered, equipped with right skills and meaningfully included to be able to contribute to the social, economic and political transformation of their nations.

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Iron Sharpens Iron organisers say they want the initiative to serve as a platform to showcase young people who are getting their hands dirty, changing their communities one idea at a time.

This, they say, will encourage and amplify youth participation in African economies.

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