In many suburbs of Nairobi, a thriving industry for the last ten years has been university students and graduates doing assignments for their counterparts in North American and European universities. Here, students have established thriving careers that involve researching on subjects that they care little about and writing term papers, assignments and even projects for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
The fact that the trade has been growing year after year is a pointer that these graduates are offering quality work.
On the other hand, generally speaking, degrees from the African continent are not held in high regard globally. Even after studying in Kenya for 12 years with the language of instruction being English, one needs to sit for a English test in order to be admitted to UK institutions of higher learning.
How is it that the same students who are accused (rightly so) of fueling unethical practices in UK Universities cannot easily qualify to join the same universities, and their qualifications are sometimes not accepted in the same countries?
It makes me want to ask one question, what is Africa’s true potential?
Many Africans in the diaspora are doing just fine, or slightly more than fine. In fact, some African migrant communities in the USA have a higher average income compared to the national average, as well as higher education levels. There are many African scholars and professionals doing exemplary work in the continent and across the world.
On the other hand, there are so many problems that plague the African continent, chief among them being poverty and poor governance.
How can there be so great potential but great misery at the same time?
What factors will promote greater economic growth in Africa in the next few years?
Here are a few key factors that hold the promise of a better future for Africa.
Africa’s great potential lies in its young people.
As the youngest continent today with a median age of 19 years and with 60% of the population being under 25 years, the future of Africa looks bright. Africa's young people are growing up in a global village that allows them to effectively interact or even compete with their counterparts in the developed world.
This is expected to be a game changer in the next few years, as the young population would be expected to be a reservoir for innovation as well as providing the much needed skills for economic development. So far, I think Africa’s young people are doing well in the digital world. I keep encountering an increasing number of young people who are working remotely for organizations that are domiciled in other continents in an attempt to solve the problem of joblessness.
However, an enabling environment is needed to ensure that these young people get a head start when it comes to navigating the digital world.
Large pan-African market
The proposed Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) brings a promise of the largest free trade area in the world. Business in Africa are usually limited in terms of market size, and it is usually difficult for a business to seamlessly do business across multiple borders due to legal challenges, tariff barriers, taxes and payments processing. While their competitors in Europe, the USA or even China have access to vast markets, most business in Africa find it hard to scale past more than one country.
If the market is opened up, this will be a great potential for economic growth.
A lot still needs to be done to make this feasible, but we hope that it is just a matter of time. Once this is done, African startups will have an exposure to a market as a big as what their counterparts in the USA have.
The next barrier they will face will now be navigating the diverse cultures.
Vast natural resources
In terms of natural resources, Africa is a wealthy continent.
Africa holds 30% of world’s known mineral reserves, and nearly half of the world’s arable land that is still uncultivated is in Africa. There are still many unexploited resources that are lying idle in the continent. However, these resources have not always translated to economic development, and some have turned into curses rather than blessings.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has almost all the natural resources you can ever look for, but it continues to suffer from poverty and political instability. Nigeria, the biggest oil producer in Africa, still has a running problem in the energy sector. Most of these natural resources are being exploited by non-African companies.
If Africa could utilize its natural resources effectively, then a new dawn will be in sight, and the path to prosperity will be short.
While the developed world has adopted all the existing technologies and gradually moved to new ones as they show up, Africa has not had the time. This has been the case like adoption of mobile phone.
Most people in Africa never had or used fixed telephone lines, but are now on mobile phones. Many people have also not used desktop computers, but they are now online through smartphones.
This approach means that Africa can still go ahead and adopt the most relevant and useful technologies that suit the continent's needs. This means that the continent should not miss out on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or any tech revolution that comes in future.
The challenge now is to ensure that Africa is not just a consumer of technology, but a very active producer of the same.
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