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Africa's Youth: The Future to a Transformed Continent

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Guest Post By Evelyn Omala, Program Officer for Segal Family Foundation

Last week, world leaders gathered for the 44th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland from January 22-25 where the challenges faced by youth around the globe topped the agenda. As the world's youngest continent with 70 percent of the population under the age of 30, Africa is making tremendous strides towards developing and transforming its sectors to build a bright future.

Most of what the world hears about Africa are the soaring unemployment rate, disease and poverty; therefore, one would wonder how the youth will cope with the enormous challenges in their communities. Yet out of this dire situation, a new breed of young African entrepreneurs is rising to find bold and innovative solutions to transform their communities.

The role of youth in fostering Africa's development progress cannot be ignored. Africa's youth are burning with a desire to change the status quo and are spearheading efforts that not only reflect their talent and ingenuity, but also show that they deeply understand their own problems and know how to address them with home-grown initiatives. At the Segal Family Foundation (SFF), where I serve as a program officer, we are unlocking the potential that Africa's youth possess and supporting them as agents of change in their communities.

SFF is hosting a three-day workshop, Innovation Through Design Thinking, for SFF grantees in Nairobi, Kenya, starting on January 29. Over 30 youth-focused African grassroots organizations will unite for skills training and entrepreneurial opportunities and to create a platform to harness unique ideas to support and engage the youth of Africa.

Take African young social entrepreneurs Joachim Ewechu and George William Bakka. While lacking many of the opportunities of youth in the developed world, these Ugandan innovators have chosen not to be bystanders in watching their communities become trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. With persistence and a passion to act, at age 16 Joachim and George founded the Angels Initiative, a SFF partner, because they believed the solution to poverty was community transformation.

The Angels Initiative builds transformative social businesses and supports emerging entrepreneurs through social ventures that deliver high quality, usable, yet affordable services for the people in emerging markets. Currently, it hosts over 80 start-up ventures at their hub in Kampala, Uganda. They will soon launch "Unreasonable East Africa", a venture that unites 25 of the most innovative and prolific social entrepreneurs from East Africa under one roof for six weeks and arms them with the mentorship, capital, and the networks they need to scale up their social businesses.

Despite the youthful zeal these young entrepreneurs possess, Joachim and George often face barriers from achieving the transformation they desire. When asked about factors impeding progress, Joachim cited the lack of adequate capital and resources to pursue ideas. Another obstacle, he pointed out, is the lack of trust from potential funders who still do not perceive Africa's youth as the vanguard of innovation in today's world.

The thirst for innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa is on the rise. We need to empower the youth's aspirations by providing a platform and meaningful resources to transform Africa. Segal Family Foundation has recognized this and, in addition to financial support, is fostering partner collaborations with the belief that only through collective efforts will youth build a strong force that can move Africa forward. Our annual youth workshops are bringing together African youth innovators to provide a forum to learn, share ideas and form partnerships geared towards building a stronger Africa.

Long-term investments and the constant belief in the potential of these young entrepreneurs by organizations like the Segal Family Foundation will help transform perceptions towards Africa and harness the many creative and brilliant ideas that aim to empower communities.