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Mo Ibrahim Foundation canvasses economic opportunities for young Africans


Mo Ibrahim

Creating economic opportunities for young Africans is the most urgent challenge facing the continent, threatening to undermine recent progress and create widespread instability, according to Mo Ibrahim.

Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said: “Young people in Africa are becoming disillusioned. What will happen if we do not provide jobs when the tsunami of young people currently in education starts looking for work? We will see further migration out of Africa and an increased threat of extremism. African governments and businesses must come together, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that we are equipping our young people with the skills they need take control of their futures.”

Mo Ibrahim spoke at the 2017 Ibrahim Governance Weekend, a three-day series of special events hosted by the Foundation in Marrakech, Morocco. The Ibrahim Forum brought together leaders from across Africa, and around the world to discuss the Continent at a Tipping Point, new research from the Foundation revealed a “defining moment in Africa’s progress”.


The report, launched earlier this month, called on African nations to harness the energy, and meet the expectations, of their young people to ensure that the progress of recent years is maintained. The Ibrahim Forum explored three areas of particular concern for young people in Africa.

The first session focused on the link between governance and terrorism, highlighting how the vacuum created through weak governance can create fertile ground for violent extremism.

Stressing the need for early intervention in areas of failing governance, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, said: “Over time, chaos begins to set in and then terrorism prospers on chaos. Terrorism comes after a long period of neglect, and it is that neglect that prevention must address.”

Special Representative/Head, United Nations (UN) Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler, said: “In mediation, we talk mostly to men above the age of 70. Youth is often totally detached from this process, but they are the majority of the population. They are not only the future of the country; they’re the present of the country.”

Founding Chair, African Youth Movement, Aya Chebbi, a Mo Ibrahim Foundation Fellow, said: “It’s not being jobless that drives youth to terrorism. It’s the perception of injustice.”

The second panel explored the risk of a democratic recession in Africa, with UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J Mohammed, calling on young people to become more involved in the democratic process. “We need an inter-generational transition. I don’t think people over a certain age should be at the helm of affairs looking at the future for people who are 60 years younger.”

Founder, Graça Machel Trust, Graça Machel, called for more diverse institutions: “Democracy is about the voice of the majority. But our majorities in Africa – the rural people, the women, and the youth, have very little say in what is happening. We need serious thought on how to build institutional capacity at different levels to take into account all voices.”


The third panel addressed the challenge of inclusive economic growth and employment, in which the Moroccan Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy, Moulay Hafid El Alamy, said: “Africa can take control of its own destiny. We have men and women of great quality.”

The Chair, Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, highlighted Africa’s vast potential: “If you look at the evidence, what we do not lack on the continent is aspiration. We are always about potential. What we need to do is make that aspiration real for our youth.”

President/Chief Executive, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, stressed the importance of policy stability for investment and growth, and in creating jobs for young people. “In business, unless you plan, there’s no way you’re going to execute. Nobody will go into a country where there is no stability and invest their money there.”

President, African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, highlighted the importance of empowering women. “A bird can only fly on two wings. Africa is going nowhere if it is only flying on one wing. We have got to enable women.” Concluding the forum, Mo Ibrahim said: “We need to fight for a much better Africa. Africa is huge­ – to move it forward we need everyone to come together.”

Delivering a message from His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Andre Azoulay, Advisor to the King, congratulated Mo Ibrahim on his efforts towards improved governance in Africa, and for preserving citizens’ security, fundamental rights, as well as in human and sustainable development in Africa.”

Speaking on the challenge of leadership in today’s world, former President of Germany, Horst Köhler, said: “We have become used to the cynical idea that truthfulness is detrimental to successful political leadership…The erosion of trust in institutions and public leaders is, in my view, one of the major causes for the political and economic problems in Europe, the United States, and in Africa.”


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