Where are Africa's young leaders? - African Business Magazine
Where are Africa’s young leaders?

Where are Africa’s young leaders?

The statistics on Africa’s youth bulge are well known. It is the world’s youngest continent, with more than half its 1.1bn-strong population under the age of 25.

This statistic is fuelling a narrative of a demographic dividend, as mobile technology revolutionises the world of business, giving rise to a new, dynamic and success-hungry generation of entrepreneurs. Much of the debate around the future of the continent’s economies now centres on the role of this youth, with high hopes that they can take the reins and realise Africa’s much-vaunted economic potential.

While the number of young faces leading successful companies is growing, along with a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, there is an important omission in the narrative. A youth-driven business environment is important, but needs to be met with a commensurate dynamic in policy innovation; perhaps the most important enabler of business. The world of policymaking, for now, largely remains the reserve of the elders.

At least a dozen countries went to the polls across Africa in 2015 to elect (or, contentiously re-elect) their political leaders. This includes major economies such as Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia. The average age of incumbents and victors in these elections is 64. Only one comes in under 50, Togo’s Faure Gnassingbé at 49. In Nigeria, Africa’s largest and most populous economy, it has fallen to 72-year-old Muhammadu Buhari to drive the youth agenda. While not impossible, there is an obvious challenge in reconciling this generational gap at a time of rapid and transformational change in technology, which will play a major role in determining the success of Africa’s economies in the 21st century.

In short, and this is an open question, is it time to develop a policy innovation agenda for the continent – part of which is a pronounced emphasis on having younger leaders in key positions? To put it differently, where are the policypreneurs? It is a question that may need addressing at a global level too. In the UK, for example, the closest thing to a national youth leader is the new Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, 66.


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Written by Lanre Akinola

Lanre Akinola was born and raised in Nigeria and is the Editor of African Business Magazine. He helped found and later served as the Editor of This Is Africa at the Financial Times. Lanre is a 2014 Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow and has worked with the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa.

  • Cincinnatus

    This particular problem is more rooted in culture. Young people in Africa are far too submissive to those they perceive as their superiors in any category including age. They’ve forgotten rashness of the young psyche is a tool needed to oppose and eventually conquer superior forces, aside from learn how to side step errors of-course . It keeps the superiors on their toes. Push them and stop being afraid of backlash. The young wolves will always need to gnaw at the heels of the alpha, testing for weakness. This natural phenomenon is vital to ensure the strong stay strong until the stronger is ready to take over and breed a new pack of superior wolves. Its for the good of the pack that this is the norm.

    Always had difficulty finding young people that will share grand visions. They just want an easy life in a corner after making enough money to enable it. Too small minded. Kings always feel the need to conquer, not because of greed, but pure ambition and share will.

    You can’t blame my people though. In Africa, It’s far too easy to be beat
    down by the superiors if they feel the need to. Justice and fairness is
    not even required to carry out execution. Culture has it’s downsides. My
    brothers and sisters need to learn that quickly. Evolution is key, not
    revolution. Challenge these guys, they are not has dangerous as they appear. Their is nothing wrong with it.

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