Finda Koroma: Africa must invest in more youth entrepreneurs
By Pelu Awofeso
The JCI Africa and the Middle East (AMESA) Summit has ended in Lagos with a call to governments in Africa to take advantage of the bulging youth population on the continent to develop multiple industries that’ll life national economies.
Madam Finda Koroma, Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission gave this charge while delivering a keynote address at the JCI Nigeria Senate Association Leadership Excellence for National Development (LEND) Seminar.
She was speaking on the topic: “Leadership, Youth, Entrepreneurship And Regional Cooperation”.
“In our region, economic areas such as agriculture, manufacturing, fashion, arts and entertainment, and ICT present new opportunities for young people to create innovative solutions that can be turned into services and products to generate income and create jobs,” Koroma said as part of the Webinar & Podcast Series of the summit, tagged “Eko 2021”.
“ECOWAS has keyed into that and is in the process of rolling out its Youth Entrepreneurship and Mentoring Programme (YEMP) intended to grow a crop of entrepreneurs in the region. Our member states are also leading by example.”
She added that as part of efforts to promote youth entrepreneurship and SMEs, “ECOWAS member states have signed up on an SME Charter which commits all ECOWAS countries to take specific steps to support entrepreneurship and enterprise development.
“We are also promoting the proliferation of digital entrepreneurs or start-ups in our business ecosystem, and have established a special center for youth development with a robust Action Plan for youth development in our region.
“An ECOWAS Regional Stabilisation and Development Fund has also been established to facilitate the creation of jobs for youth and women in fragile and unstable member states through direct investment in selected economic value chains and capacity building.
“This programme is currently being piloted in The Gambia and will be scaled up to other countries such as Guinea Bissau and Mali this year.”
For these initiatives to take root and gain traction, though, a lot will depend on sound and committed leadership across board.
“At the government, business, community and the personal levels, visionary leadership guided by discipline is an essential element for growth and sustainable development,” Koroma said.
The ECOWAS Commission, she added, is also developing a Vision 2050 document for the sub-region as well as its implementation frameworks.
While spelling out the roles and responsibilities of both the public and private sector in shaping a better future for the continent, Koroma also had a word for the youths, calling on them to stay engaged and play their respective roles in the achievement of the 2050 vision.
“Embrace risk, entrepreneurship and innovation, leveraging technology and the digital landscape; and be committed to exploring and creating solutions to address the persisting gaps and needs in our society.
“In this modern day of increased access to internet, I encourage you to embrace continuous learning and personal development to acquire necessary skills to innovate and manage the solutions you create.”
The youths, she acknowledged, face enormous challenges but she encouraged them to face up to them nonetheless.
“In the midst of these challenges, I believe there is an opportunity to transform youthful energy into value, through commitments that build the capacity of our youth to be useful resources for our continent, especially with the full leverage of contemporary technology and entrepreneurship capacity.
“We have in our hands the most priced asset of being the youngest continent in the world, which means we stand the chance of being the source of workforce, industry and leadership for the world now and in the near future.
“This imposes the dire necessity to ensure inclusive participation of all strata of the populace, particularly youth in leadership and governance, hence equipping them with skills and capacities to carry the mantle now and in the future.”