Did you come across Bill Gates’ post on LinkedIn of last Monday? If not, you may want to read it: “My message to the next generation of Africans.” The essence of his message resonated quite well with me: a message of optimism about Africa’s future that is based on a young population, and a youthful mentality – the title of one of my earlier posts; actually, one of my favorite ones!
Let me share one quote from Gates: “Economists talk about the demographic dividend and the potential for Africa’s burgeoning youth population to accelerate economic growth. But for me, the most important thing about young people is the way their minds work.”
Yes! African youth is full of entrepreneurial initiative. I won’t say that cuts across all people from all countries. In fact there are striking differences, as this funny story shows:
A Kenyan entrepreneur started a student housing business in a neighboring country (I prefer not to say which one). She needed to equip the facilities: table cloths, linen, etc. A first order was placed to a local seamstress. The job was well done, so a second order was placed. Next time, the entrepreneur didn’t find the seamstress. She went back another day, and another… finally, she asked the person at the next store: the seamstress had moved to another location because she was getting too much work! The entrepreneur was astonished: this would have never happened in Kenya!
In contrast, plenty of other stories show the creativity and entrepreneurial thrive that the African youthful mentality releases. Just a few examples:
- Traffic control robots
- Schoolbags with a solar panel that charges while kids are in school
- An emergency set for filtering and transfusing lost blood back into a patient
Our shared optimism is not blind. As Gates says, “positive change across Africa won’t happen automatically. The real returns will come only if Africans can unleash this talent for innovation in all of the continent’s growing population. That depends on whether all of its young people are given the opportunity to thrive.”
What a fascinating challenge!
Would you like to share any other entrepreneurial initiative born in the continent?