Themes that will Transform Africa

Themes that will drive African Opportunities over the next 15 years

It is estimated that over the next 15 years, 15 to 20 million increasingly well-educated young people will enter Africa’s workforce every year. We outline the themes that we believe will be the drivers of opportunities, that can deliver on Africa’s required job creation.

1. Skills development for the 4th industrial revolution 

Home to 13% of the world’s working-age population (and growing), Africa must prepare its workforce and labor market entrants for the work opportunities that the 4th industrial revolution brings.

Technology is the most disruptive force in human history, delivering profound impact on society, labour markets, and human interaction. Technology has the power to create huge shifts in our economies and society, as it brings with it possibility to rethink how Africa creates value, prosperity, economic opportunity and inclusivity for its people and the world. With Sub-Saharan Africa being home to 13% of the world’s working-age population (estimated to reach 17% by 2030), no other region presents such an opportunity to capture the economic and social benefits of the technological revolution. To capture this value, Africa must prepare its existing workforce and labor market entrants for the work opportunities of the future.

2. Inter-Africa connectivity, collaboration and trade 

The unification of Africa into the world’s largest free trade area, brings with it opportunities not only for cross-border trade, but for greater African connectivity, collaboration, and ultimately economic opportunity

Ratified in 2019, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) created the world’s largest free trade area, with 54 of Africa’s 55 countries as signatories. This unprecedented agreement integrates the entire African continent into a unified market, combining the power of a region with $2.5tn in GDP and a population of over 1.2bn people. Whilst its main objective is to create a single continental market for goods and services (with an estimated initial boost in intra-African trade of 33%), Movemeback believes that it also presents an opportunity greater flow of skills and ideas. By providing the mechanism of free movement of people, investment, products and service, AfCFTA has the potential to spark greater connectivity and collaboration and among African changemakers across borders, and driving the creation of new business and economic opportunities. 

3. End-to-end value chain capture 

With only 22% of our export in high value consumer or capital goods, Africa has the potential for significant economic opportunity by capturing its own end-to-end value chains, and through increased participation in global value chains 

Changing consumer demand, rapid urbanisation, and industrialisation has increased the global demand for consumer and capital goods. However, Africa continues to be disproportionately under-represented in global value chains – that is production that crosses at least one border. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 52% of exports are for raw materials, whilst only 6% is in capital goods, and 16% in consumer goods. Compare this with China where 46% of its exports are in capital goods, and 36% consumer goods. To advance sustainable development across Africa, we must transform from a rural, agriculture-based region, to an industrial society. Greater participation in global value chains, and localisation of our own value chains can be a key driver to transforming African workers out of low-productivity agriculture, and into modernised food processing and distribution, and labor-intensive manufacturing. 

4. Access to financial services and products

With 66% of Africans still unbanked, the majority of Africans are still unable to access products including saving accounts, loans and investment, that help drive economic activity and development.

Access to financial services and products is a key enabler to grasping economic opportunities, and achieving economic growth. According to the World Bank, 66% of Africans remain ‘unbanked’. This means that most Africans still can not access the financial services needed to save for future needs such as education or health, or credit and investment to enable their business to expand, create jobs, and contribute to the reduction of poverty. 

Achieving financial inclusion and providing everyone with the opportunity for economic stimulus is a key driver to delivering inclusive and sustainable growth in Africa. Thus access to safe, affordable, convenient, and lasting financial services therefore continues to be a fundamental opportunity area, that brings with it economic opportunity not just for those who are currently financially excluded, but also for those providing financial solutions to hundreds of millions of adults.

5. Exporting African culture & identity

The creative, cultural and tourism industries provide opportunities for Africa to not only reclaim its narrative, but for job creation and economic growth

Western discourse continues to paint an uninspiring narrative of Africa’s history, present and future. However, the Continent’s rich and diverse heritage and culture brings with it opportunities for job creation, across film, music, visual art, tourism and more. The creative and cultural industries are well recognised as a driver of Africa’s economic growth, with the sector (including film, television, music, art, fashion, architecture, newspapers and more) employing over half a million people. The love for African culture is no better epitomised than in the fact that Nollywood continues to be the second largest film market by output in the world. Opportunities across hotels, hospitality and leisure are also vast, with Africa being the second-fastest growing tourism region in the world, and the creator of 1 out of 5 new jobs in Africa (according to the World Travel & Tourism Council). The sector is set to continue growing, aided by an increase in domestic travel courtesy of AfCTA. Ghana’s “Year of Return” in 2019 demonstrated the possibility for international tourism across the continent – with the number of diasporans visiting in the year far exceeding the projected number of 500,000. 

Thus ownership of our culture and creativity is therefore not only intrinsically bound in our ability to own our history, narrative and legacy, but it also presents great economic potential for the Continent. 

6. Energy access

With 2 out of 3 people with no access to energy, and demand growing twice as fast as the global average, Africa must provide scalable, affordable and sustainable energy solutions

Energy access puts a strain on Africa’s ability to develop and thrive, as it’s growing demand from its increasingly urban population is not being met. Access to energy is a key driver to development in Africa, as it power essential services such as schools and hospitals, makes communities safer. Its role in economic growth is crucial, as energy access not only enables businesses of all sizes to thrive, but also fuels industrial production. However, 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa (2 out of 3 people) do not have access to electricity. Driven by urbanisation, and a population set to double by 2050, energy demand in Africa is growing twice as fast as the global average. BP forecasts that electricity demand from Africa will triple by 2040, with renewables becoming the largest source of power generation.

To achieve sustainable development and enable the growth of businesses, production and industries across Africa, Africa must provide scalable, affordable and sustainable energy solutions. A mix of renewable energy solutions including solar, wind farms, geothermal power and modern grids could by the answer to meeting Afirca’s energy needs.

7. Baseline Healthcare and Disease Protection

Home to 15% of the global population, but 71% of incidences of infectious diseases, great opportunities lie in the advancement of medical care, digital health, and disease protection across Africa

Africa’s healthcare provision and disease protection is shockingly low, and continues to be a huge drag on the Continent’s development. Although home to over 15% of the global population, Africa is the recipient of less than 1% of global health expenditure, only 3% of the world’s health workers, and bears 71% of the global distribution of infectious diseases. Linked to many infectious diseases is poor sanitation – a surge that 300 million people across Africa suffer from. The result is that Africa accounts for almost half the world’s deaths of children under five, and 50% of children under five who die of pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are in Africa. Fundamental to Africa’s development is therefore a transformation in our ability to protect all Africans from basic diseases and premature immortality.

Opportunities to drive huge advancements in health exist not just in the increased provision of hospitals and trained staff, but in the scalable and affordable provision of clean water and sanitation, and mHealth (medicine and public health supported by mobile devices). Digital technologies provide opportunities to provide healthcare and vital information to patients in the most remote areas, improve data collection and supply chains to ensure the right medicines reach the right areas, finding innovative ways to transport products by road and sky, and in ensuring the authenticity of medicine.

8. Africa-owned digital platforms 

If “data is king”, then digital platforms built for big data will be the biggest winners of all

Digital infrastructure is transforming the continent, improving lives, and creating jobs – from shopkeepers accepting mobile payments, to farmers increasing their productivity via real time information on weather, pregnant women in rural areas having access to vital information, disease diagnostics and ethnic hate speech monitoring. Driving this transformation is the collection and analysis of digital data to understand audiences, drive decisions, improve performance, and propel the direction of innovation. With only 25% of Africans online, the ability to provide the continent with affordable and scalable connectivity solutions is key to its development. 

As more Africans come online, the growth in digital data will be exponential. “Data is King”, the new “oxygen” (World Economic Forum) and the new “oil” Chinese AI specialist Kai-Fu Lee. D In 2016, the World Economic Forum estimated that the digitization of industry could generate a global dividend of US$100 trillion by 2026. The largest companies in the world, including Facebook, Amazon, Google are all data companies and digital platforms – collecting data, understanding patterns, and influencing the behaviours of individuals, organisations and governments across the world, whilst monetising its data by selling it to advertisers, banks, political parties, and others. But who owns Africa’s digital data? If data is king, then large, digital platforms that successfully drive usage and online interactions, built from the ground to gather and analyse data, will be the biggest winners of all.

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