Kudzani Sharara in CAIRO, Egypt
Africa must leverage on youths in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area as they have the ambition, energy and drive that is needed for its success, leaders at the ongoing Afreximbank Annual Meetings here have said.
There is a strong belief that the African youths are poised to make giant strides in a single continental market and could seamlessly become the drivers of Africa’s integration and intra-African trade.
All they need, according to leaders, are policies that give them intellectual property protection, ease the cost of doing business as well as improve access to the single African market.
By 2030, the continent’s youths will make up 42 percent of the world’s young people, according to Population Reference Bureau a non-profit organisation that specialises in research data.
Recently, Antoinette Sayeh, the IMF Deputy managing director, was quoted as saying the big economic opportunity before Africa is the continent’s demographic dividend in reference to the youths.
It is this demographic dividend that African leaders believe can be used as leverage to advance the aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In his opening remarks ahead of a panel discussion on “The Reordering of Global Supply Chains Post-Covid19 and Ukraine Crisis: Opportunities and Threats to the AfCFTA,” African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Benedict Oramah, said the success of AfCFTA will depend on how the continent deploys the energies of the youths.
He added that Africa’s challenges can be resolved by leveraging on the visionary and committed leadership, the youths, and digital technology. Our leadership has done the courageous work of giving us the AfCFTA.
“A lot now hinges on our Youths”, Mr Orama said. He also gave statistics indicating that today 85 percent of the continent’s population is under 45, and 45 percent are between 15 and 45 years old.
“This asset in our hands is perhaps the greatest resource, an asset much more valuable than all the oil and mineral resources,” said Mr Orama.
“It is our view that the youth will be the catalytic force to the realisation of the continental agenda.
“Indeed, the youth have always been the catalyst to economic transformations and at the base of every industrial revolution in advanced economies.”
Mr Orama said it is no coincidence that at the height of each Industrial Revolution, youth constituted the largest proportion of the labour force and population.
And giving welcome remarks, Mr. Tarek Hassan Amer, Governor Central Bank of Egypt said the young people have the energy and drive to take AfCFTA forward.
Young people are ambitious and willing to take risks, he said.
The young bring hope for the future and must be pushed toward positions of influence, Mr Amer said.
African solutions can only be found within Africa, the ingredients are there and the solutions are in Africa, Mr Amer said adding that what is only lacking is “coming together and developing trust amongst” Africans.
He said it is imperative to improve Intra-Africa-Trade and import from each other than outside the continent.
This year’s Afreximbank Annual Meetings (AAM 2022) are running under the theme “Realising the AfCFTA Potential in the Post COVID-19 Era – Leveraging the Power of the Youth” and more than 3,000 high-level banking, governmental, and international personalities are in attendance.
The 4-day meetings will witness the holding of 30 plenary and main sessions.
Today, there will be 5 sessions, including the official opening session of the annual meetings of the African Export-Import Bank, which revolves around the bank’s role in activating the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and supporting the transformation of African economies through trade.
The official opening will be presided by H.E. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.