Making Africa work for everyone

Enjoying the launch, Erica Wiersma from Rondebosch with Dr Rob Stead and Ann Stead from Meadowridge.

Bishops in Rondebosch was one of the venues for the South African launch tour of Making Africa Work,which lays out a vision for ensuring growth beyond commodities and creating jobs across the continent.

Greg Mills – who grew up in Newlands, attended Bishops and now lives in Johannesburg where he heads the Brenthurst Foundation, established in 2005 by the Oppenheimer family to strengthen African economic performance – wrote the book in collaboration with Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s president from 1999 to 2007; Dickie Davis, a retired British army officer and an associate of the Brenthurst Foundation; and Jeffrey Herbst, an American political scientist.

The guest speaker, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, stressed the importance of finding jobs for the youth.

Before telling the audience how to fix the continent, the authors outlined what had gone wrong: poverty, corruption, inequality, unemployment and poor economic growth.

“Leaders around the continent are facing a myriad challenges ranging from investment downgrades and droughts exacerbated by climate change to illegal migration and civil protests, with the rule of law having declined in over 30 countries since 2006,” said Dr Mills.

He said the book covered six key themes: demographics; the next generation; jobs; policy and plans; democracy and skills; and techniques.

Mr Obasanjo, said South Africa and Nigeria held the key to solving major challenges facing the continent, including what to do about its rapidly expanding population.

“A billion people living in sub- Saharan Africa today, two billion by 2050 with 80% of that increase living in African cities,” he said.

Dr Mills said it was not just about the numbers. “The book is about the next generation, what we are going to do with and for them. Africa’s youth population is about 16 to 17% of the global youth population, rising by one-quarter in 2025 and by 2050 nearing half of the world’s youth population, from almost 230-million today to 452-million. The pressure is on for creating jobs and for that they need to be skilled and have the right environment.”

Mr Obasanjo said almost half of the continent’s youth were living on aid.

“This group will be connected with each other and the world through mobile devices. If managed properly and planned for, this is a tremendously positive force for change. If the youth are uneducated, unskilled and unemployed they will become frustrated, becoming a political catastrophe with devastating consequences. With a huge rise in the numbers of jobless, disaffected youth could prove a political and social catastrophe. Instead, leaders wanting to continue in power will have to promote economic growth in a more dynamic manner,” said Mr Obasanjo.

He identified two East African countries that were doing things properly: Rwanda and Ethiopia.

“Both nations have posted impressive economic growth over the past decade. They’ve made major strides in areas of education, health care and poverty reduction. But neither country is a democracy. Both are de facto one-party states in which freedom of speech is an alien concept and opposition is violently discouraged,” said Mr Obasanjo.

Dr Mills said African countries needed to create trade with each other and to stimulate tourism, agriculture and to modernise mining.

“We go into the various sectors and show how to do this,” he said.

Mr Davis said there was a sense of urgency in tackling leadership on the continent.

“God has given us enough resources to make it right for the next generation. To avert disaster, we need to create peace and security; a relationship of cooperative leadership and governance and integration – with no impunity and corruption, which is the greatest fear for African youth,” he said.

Making Africa Work is published by Hurst Publishers and is being printed in French and Arabic with tours scheduled to Africa, Europe, Britain and America.