At an ICT incubation center in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, a group of young people who spends about three quarters of their day next to computers continue to everyday come up with some of the most groundbreaking and life changing innovations applications that makes it easier for the unbanked to have access to financial services, intelligent greenhouses which farmers can remotely control and technology that provides pregnant women and new mothers with targeted health information and care tips using SMS and voice calls.
It is a phenomenon that reverberates across the continent where young minds have embraced technology to bridge the digital divide and address some of the continent’s most pressing problems. In a continent known to have a very young population, which stood at 226 million youth of between 15 and 24 years in 2015 representing 19 per cent of the global youth population, the sustained focus on technology by this constituency deserves extra attention and focus by policy makers.
First because of the transformatory and active role the youth of Africa are championing with tech, but secondly because of the place of innovations in addressing unemployment which affects the youth most. In all these Silicon Savannahs, from Nigeria, Cameroon to South Africa, are techpreneurs who are starting their small businesses and bringing their colleagues on board, thus creating jobs.
Such revolution is enough to transform the continent into a major powerhouse. The cofounder of Microsoft Bill Gates aptly captured this new wave last year while delivering the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture Series. “Young people can provide innovative solutions to the region’s problems — more than older people — because they are not locked in by the limits of the past,” he said.
There is nothing as powerful as a dedicated young mind, and African youth have shown that beyond the sometimes misconstrued narrative of them being trouble makers, they can shape Africa’s development agenda. Time is ripe for governments and private sector to tap into these innovations and technologies and put the youth in the front seat of transforming Africa, because the future belongs to them.