Africa is the youngest and fastest growing continent in the world. It’s also home to over 60 percent of uncultivated arable land and has an abundance of minerals necessary for the energy transition. So how then do the public and private sector leaders take advantage of this?
Discussing the topic are the panelists: President of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Besse, the head of government of Tunisia, Professor Najla Boudin, the undersecretary general of the United Nations, Winnie Banyima, and the chairman of Multichois, Imtiaz Patel.
Priorities In Order To Release Africa’s Potential
Addressing the question, Professor Boudin said time has come for Africa to take charge in a context of crisis – imported crisis – regarding the pandemic, the crisis stemming from the Ukrainian war, and other crises that are characterizing the continent, including poverty, for example, but also terrorism and obviously climate change. The top priorities for Africa to take charge is to invest. First of all, invest in people. The biggest potential of Africa is its youth and its women. The aspiration six of the agenda 2063 is that the African Union asked for the full potential of Africa to be unleashed through its youth and women. And this includes capacity building, encouraging the youngsters, women, to become entrepreneurs. The need to learn how to boost startup companies. This is the number one priority.
Next is the need to reinforce the climate resilience of the planet altogether. The energy mix, in spite of the huge potential of our planet in terms of solar energy, wind power and geothermal. Third priority will be to boost digital connectivity across the African continent, which will boost Africa’s economy. The final priority is South-South cooperation, which is a greater international cooperation. New solutions must be found to allow the African continent to shift out of the crisis.
Africa has a young and large population, 65% of the population is under the age of 35.
The people are resilient, hungry for growth, and everybody wants a better life. Young people are adopting and breaking the digital divide, not because the platform is there, but they themselves want to break that. The digital divide is narrowing really fast. There are natural resources like sun and wind that will solve, in the long run, the renewable energy problem. The way Africa has handled the pandemic, everything looks really positive for Africa right now.
Innovation In Africa Together With Switzerland
Switzerland has been ranked as the most innovative country in the world. The conclusion for Switzerland is to work with African countries and to partner with African countries to support the creation of innovative ecosystems. It is through exchange of know-how. It is through technology transfer. It is through investment in education, in academic exchanges between our countries and in the support for startups and small businesses. Switzerland has very long history of innovation. In the field of watchmaking, pharmaceuticals, machine industry, textiles, chemistry, banking, blockchain, chocolate making, Switzerland has always had a strong foothold.
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It is a mix of educational system, educational system, high class universities, vocational training in Switzerland, very well known. It is a very close, pragmatic collaboration between research institutions and industrial partners and government at all levels. It is to use and to have startups to test new ideas. Switzerland and Africa are currently working together on blockchain and pharmaceuticals to build the ecosystems and environment that can develop these technologies.
Making Africa Self Reliant
There is a need for Africa to be self-reliant, particularly when it comes to tech and health. By 2035, there will have been more young, smart Africans entering the workforce than in all the other continents combined. Some of the challenges the continent faces come from the structural barriers within the global system, the trade rules that allow people to hold a lifesaving medicine and not share the technology so that others make for themselves. So Africa must become self-reliant. But to do that, it must also work on its own issues, like build the market where products can be sold and then that are at a competitive price with other regions. But also global rules must change so that Africa can have the space to innovate and to build its own medicines and vaccines.