Realising the potential of Africa’s youth

04 abril 2017

Budding technology start-ups and enthusiasts from Africa will meet from 19 to 21 July in the Rwandan capital of Kigali for YouthConnekt, a summit on entrepreneurship organized by UNCTAD, the United Nations Development Programme and the Rwandan government.

"UNCTAD is proud to partner with the Government of Rwanda to champion youth technology entrepreneurship across the continent", said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

"It is our duty to create opportunities for young people to shape their future and become innovators and successful African entrepreneurs," Dr. Kituyi said, adding that investing in youth will not only help build hope in Africa's future generations, but will also help implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The summit, themed "Realizing Africa's Youth Potential", will bring together more than 2,500 delegates, including Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group and special advisor to UNCTAD for youth entrepreneurship and small business.

Mr. Ma will be joined by African heads of state and representatives of youth groups and private companies, from start-ups to multinationals, to discuss how best to use technology to drive economic growth in Africa.

"YouthConnekt seeks to empower young people and connect them with opportunities in the public and private sectors. It has a strong gender and technology focus," Dr. Kituyi said.

Given the poor state of the formal job market in Africa, Dr. Kituyi said it is important for young people on the continent to look towards entrepreneurship for a brighter future.

The YouthConnekt initiative is a multi-faceted program that engages youth in national dialogue, and works with them to find or create employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Designed to realize the demographic dividend, the initiative combines entrepreneurship skills development with access to jobs and finance, awareness raising on issues related to youth development, and the promotion of youth citizenship.

A key discussion topic at the summit in July will be e-commerce, seen as crucial for stepping up intra-African trade and enabling budding entrepreneurs to access larger markets.

"One of the strengths of e-commerce is that it leapfrogs the bottlenecks of trade. For example, electronic platforms reduce the challenges of roads in some aspects, such as trade of services," Dr. Kituyi said.

"With sound pre-conditions such as a digital inclusion broadband, sound regulatory framework and political support, international e-commerce opportunities are immense and can be realized faster than some traditional enterprises," he said.

"We are not saying that e-commerce totally answers to the limits of intra-African trade but it will substantially boost the economic growth, particularly when the infrastructure issues are addressed," he added.

UNCTAD has been working closely with the Rwandan government through the Ministry of Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs to develop Rwanda's trade policy and build capacities.