Mo Ibrahim has stated that creating economic opportunities for young Africans is the most urgent challenge facing the continent, threatening to undermine recent progress and create widespread instability.
Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said: “Young people in Africa are becoming disillusioned. What will happen if we do not provide jobs when the tsunami of young people currently in education starts looking for work? We will see further migration out of Africa and an increased threat of extremism. African governments and businesses must come together, as a major of urgency, to ensure that we are equipping our young people with the skills they need take control of their futures.”
Mo Ibrahim was speaking at the 2017 Ibrahim Governance Weekend, a three-day series of special events hosted by the Foundation in Marrakech, 7-9th April.
At the heart of the weekend was the Ibrahim Forum, which brings together leaders from across Africa and around the world to discuss ‘Africa at a Tipping Point,’ new research from the Foundation that reveals a “defining moment in Africa’s progress.”
The report, launched earlier this month, calls on African nations to harness the energy, and meet the expectations of their young people to ensure that the progress of recent years is maintained.
The Ibrahim Forum explored three areas of particular concern for young people in Africa.
The first session focused on the link between governance and terrorism, highlighting how the vacuum created through weak governance can create fertile ground for violent extremism.
Stressing the need for early intervention in areas of failing governance, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, said: “Over time, chaos begins to set in and then terrorism prospers on chaos. Terrorism comes after a long period of neglect, and it is that neglect that prevention must address.”
Martin Kobler, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, said: “In mediation, we talk mostly to men above the age of 70. Youth is often totally detached from this process, but they are the majority of the population. They are not only the future of the country, they’re the present of the country.”
Aya Chebbi, Founding Chair of the African Youth Movement and a Mo Ibrahim Foundation Fellow, said: “It’s not being jobless that drives youth to terrorism. It’s the perception of injustice.”
The second panel explored the risk of a democratic recession in Africa.
Amina J Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, called on young people to become more involved in the democratic process. “We need an inter-generational transition. I don’t think people over a certain age should be at the helm of affairs looking at the future for people who are 60 years younger.”
Graça Machel, Founder of the GraçaMachel Trust, called for more diverse institutions: “Democracy is about the voice of the majority. But our majorities in Africa – the rural people, the women, the youth – have very little say in what is happening. We need serious thought on how to build institutional capacity at different levels to take into account all voices.”
The third panel addressed the challenge of inclusive economic growth and employment.
Moulay Hafid El Alamy, Moroccan Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy, said: “Africa can take control of its own destiny. We have men and women of great quality.”
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, highlighted Africa’s vast potential: noted “If you look at the evidence, what we do not lack on the continent is aspiration. We are always about potential. What we need to do is make that aspiration real for our youth.”
Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive of the Dangote Group, stressed the importance of policy stability for investment and growth, and in creating jobs for young people.
“In business, unless you plan, there’s no way you’re going to execute. Nobody will go into a country where there is no stability and invest their money there.”