By Caroline Numuhire
According to a recent UN report (2019), “Sub-Saharan Africa will account for most of the growth of the world’s population over the coming decades, while several other regions will begin to experience decreasing population numbers”.
If we are to become the continent with the highest rates of the employable youth population, it implies that our youth, more than ever, need guidance on how to make a dignified living on their mother continent.
I am not talking about just inspirational videos accessible on YouTube; I am referring to intentionally creating enabling environment, policies, and structures that really allow an African to strive.
Strive is not just a verb but it can also be a name, a name for an African, a name for an African billionaire who believes in the African youth.
Few weeks ago, I had the privilege to listen to the Zimbabwe-born business magnate Strive Masiyiwa addressing Rwandan entrepreneurs.
I was first struck by his deep understanding of the different sectors across the African continent, and then by his sense of humility.
It was an evening of inspiration as he shared his journey. The most important take home from that conversation was that our brains as Africans are our magnificent source of wealth.
This businessman who was portrayed in the Forbes Africa’s book ‘Africa’s Billionaires’, sent a strong message to all entrepreneurs that failure should be celebrated even more than success.
“You are not going to be a successful entrepreneur if you don’t celebrate failure, pick-up, and move on,” he remined the audience with his wise tone.
What I like about businessmen like him or Vusi Thembekwayo and more others is that they are a proven example that sons and daughters of ordinary families can capitalize on existing opportunities and not only strive but also thrive on our beloved continent that has, for incalculable times, been stereotyped for what it wasn’t in its full potential.
The time is now to stop blaming colonialism for most African problems.
We must seize the full ownership of Africa’s progress in our hands and the day the African youth start to awaken the potential they have within, then they are contributing, one step at time, to the advancement thus development of Africa.
I was recently challenged about what awakening one’s greatness means and how it translates in the daily routine of African youth. I used to think that all the African youth needed to succeed in life was hardworking, putting in that mega, extra effort and the doors of success will open automatically.
A wise friend told me that that analysis could be interpreted as synonym of ignorance, not necessarily arrogance. Ignorance because the assumption of making much effort was just one particular piece of the success puzzle but there was a lot more needed to unlock the success that we all dream about.
Such enablers include the need for politically stable nations, quality education, conducive policies that allow entrepreneurship to blossom.
When I interact with fellow young people, I am frustrated to find out that they sometimes equate success to a stroke of luck. And I always retort that this is a flawed thinking;
The wealthy actually invest in skills, preparation and learning.
They take risks, chase the right opportunities and make the right connections and decisions.
With his quiet tone, that evening, Mr. Masiyiwa reminded us that the wealth of Africans is our minds, which I agree with. The dreamer, the passionate, the persistent, the wild, the courageous spirits have made the best entrepreneurs; those who identified a narrow window of opportunities, grabbed it and made it blossom into millions of money.
Then… my intellect inner voice started a conversation about how factors such as quality of education, flourishing business environment, conducive policies, lack of corruption, language, access to opportunities contribute to the equation of success of Africans.
And what is the weight of the brave spirit in the equation? I have seen how conducive environment have remarkably contributed to the innovation sector that has led to new successful discoveries?
Minds are power but to which extent can our potential plateau? How much authority do African young minds over their own success? How much can they dare? Who unfailingly remind them to dare? I am sure the answers to these questions exist somewhere.
And once we refuse to focus on the strains tainting our continent’s sky and focus on the rays of sun, that day, we survive struggles and barriers to meet success on the other end of the journey.
And I do believe that the shape of hope for our continent has nothing to do with its map, where the top is big and shrinks at the bottom, at the end. We just have to keep sowing productive seeds for thoughts in our African minds, our most treasured wealth.