With a focus on education and unemployment, The Global Youth Summit 2013 started with an engaging conversation with young change-makers, who shared their entrepreneurial experiences. The young panel was pure inspiration. Living in Africa, these entrepreneurs were born not of a privileged head start or early-in-life auspicious circumstances, but rather the power of innovation and sheer determination.
On a Skype call from Abuja, a participant complained about bad internet connectivity depriving him of having full access to the live talk, but a panelist was quick to highlight the role of harnessing creativity and innovation in dealing with bad service delivery and other problems prevalent across the continent.
Despite the fact that only 40% of the students in Africa enroll in secondary school, Panelist Njideka U. Harry believes that the entrepreneurship project has an important role to play in addressing youth unemployment. Ms. Harry, Founder and CEO at Youth for Technology Foundation, contends that while Education cannot be overemphasized, Entrepreneurial qualities such as leadership, tenacity and ethical fiber are rather born not made. She adds these qualities need to be coupled with soft skills that the education system falls short in providing; hence her foundation focuses on entrepreneurship education.
A rather contrary opinion came from Panelist Diallo Shabazz who believes that presenting entrepreneurship as the way out of poverty is misleading because not everyone can be an entrepreneur. What’s more, he says that the lack of adequate funding poses a serious limitation. Mr. Shabazz, Senior Director of Sustainability Education and Partnerships, emphasizes that to be a successful entrepreneur one must possess fairly developed management, analytical and communication skills. He explains that in high school, students can participate in organizations, clubs and other activities that allow them to develop the skills and leadership expertise necessary to guide their own companies later on. He also emphasizes the value of “intrapreneurship,” explaining that while entrepreneurship is creating your own company, intrapreneurship is about developing the business skill set needed in an entrepreneurial endeavor.
prioritizing education also was emphasized by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmed Alhendawi.
It was particularly a delight attending the workshop on education that started with a scintillating presentation given by a young change maker followed by an analytical discussion of his project. Salem saw the potential of internet and mobile technology making a real difference by bridging the education gap in Africa, where people have better access to mobile technology than to clean water! He draws on the psychologically-verified power of Gamification in motivating people to perform tasks they otherwise find tedious and cumbersome. Through channeling educational computer games and interactive learning platforms like Coursera, Salem believes we can provide a supplementary education to the generation we call “digital natives”.
Plagued by political, economic and humanitarian problems, the continent with the youngest population in the world is full of limitless potential in manpower and natural resources. And just as the untapped jewels and minerals lying beneath its rich soil, the talent of Africa’s young generations awaits to be uncovered. Only then that the arch of its long-suffered history will bend towards richness and prosperity.