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Africa’s Youth Population Are Innovation Enthusiasts – Urama

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Acting Chief Economist of African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Kevin Urama has harped on the need to effectively maximize the enormous advantages of Africa’s huge youth population, saying that they are innovation enthusiasts.

Urama made the observation during a recent meeting between AfDB delegation and Swiss ambassadors in the West Africa region, in Cote d’Ivoire.

Swiss ambassadors meeting in the Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan invited a senior management team from the Bank to exchange views on development and cooperation. They also had a robust discussion on current issues affecting Africa broadly, and the region especially.

The envoys held a working luncheon, hosted by the Swiss assistant state secretary for Sub-Saharan Africa, Siri Walt.  Ambassador Walt is the head of the Africa Division at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.

He noted that the youth population is therefore a huge asset for driving economic productivity in key sectors. He however, pointed out that when they are excluded from key productive sectors, they become disenfranchised and restive.

“Africa’s youth population are innovation enthusiasts and can drive innovations to boost productivity and growth across countries, but where there is no capital to support their innovations, they become orphaned and less productive. Including the youth in key sectors such as agriculture, energy, governance of countries could help countries harness their demographic dividend.

“We need to think about planning… to match population growth with economic growth rates. If the population growth rate is higher than GDP growth rate, poverty deepens”, he said.

While answering the question bordering on whether Africa’s growing population was a dividend or challenge, he said: “Whether it is a challenge or a dividend depends on the country.  Africa’s economies are currently labour intensive due to low levels of technology inputs”.

Urama is also the Bank’s Acting Vice President for economic governance and knowledge management, also gave highlights from the Bank’s new report, entitled “Africa’s Macroeconomic Performance and Outlook”, which was published for the first time in January.

AfDB’s Deputy Director-General for West Africa, Joseph Ribeiro said some of the most successful African   AfDB-led projects in West Africa and across the continent were those that prioritized women and agriculture.

Ribeiro also noted that the bank has allocated $178 million to build food resilience and fight against malnutrition in the phase 2 of the P2RS programme (Programme to build resilience to food and nutrition insecurity in the Sahel).

He said security was one of the major significant challenges, adding that on the institutional front the sub-region is currently home to three de facto governments that had come to power by military coup – Mali Burkina Faso and Guinea. He said the bank had resumed programmes in these countries since the end of July 2022.

“If you are doing work for the people, it’s the same people receiving the needed assistance, beyond the political events”, he further explained. He stressed that the Bank takes all necessary measures to ensure effective fiduciary accountability on project implementation.

Director for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, Daniel Schroth observed that Africa is not on track to meet United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 7 on universal energy access.

Schroth noted that as a result of COVID-19, for the first time in recent years the number of people without access to energy actually increased. He added that the continent’s lack of access to energy is slowing down the achievement of the other development goals.

“In view of the critical role of energy for development at large, the African Development Bank placed energy at the top of its agenda for the continent”, he added.

He spoke also about one of the bank’s key initiatives, Desert to Power, covering the 11 countries of the Sahel. He said: “We are working with the governments in these countries on roadmaps and an initial set of priority projects to seize the region’s solar potential, but a lot of capital is required to realize the objectives of the initiative”.

Ambassador Anne Lugon-Moulin, Ambassador of Switzerland to Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, underscored Switzerland’s positive relations with the African Development Bank as the continent’s premier development institution.

Switzerland is a member of the AfDB, which it joined in September 1982. It has been a shareholder in the African Development Fund, the group’s concessional lending window to low-income countries, since 1973. Switzerland is the 11th largest shareholder in the African Development Fund and has cumulatively contributed over $2 billion Swiss Francs to date.

Senior Advisor to the Executive Director for Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland, Laura Rutishauser said the AfDB was a priority multilateral institution for Switzerland, which increased its contribution to the most recent African Development Fund replenishment in December 2022, and to its new climate change window. “This shows our strong cooperation”, she stressed.

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