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Obasanjo: 'Youth will transform Africa'

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AFRICA WILL play a leading role in the world economy during the 21st century according to former Nigerian president and ex-chair of the African Union, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Speaking exclusively to The Voice, Obasanjo pointed out emerging demographic changes that will give the region’s economy a major advantage in global trade.

According to recent forecasts, the continent’s population will double to two billion by 2050 giving it the largest workforce in the world. It is also estimated that 40 per cent of this number will be under the age of 25.

According to the chief, Africa is set emerge as a powerful presence on the global stage if it can continue to create opportunities for its young people:

“The continent’s population will double from one to two billion by 2050 and this will mean the young continue to dominate Africa.

“If harnessed correctly, this can be a change for good helping to boost prosperity across the continent.

“These young people are vibrant, driven and committed to the future of their countries.”

BOLD STATEMENT: Former Nigeria president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

With more than 900 million consumers, the continent of Africa is already being hailed by economic analysts as one of the world’s fastest growing markets. After several decades of slow growth, they say that the continent has a real chance to follow the economic success enjoyed by Asia. Africa’s countries have regularly featured in several lists of the world’s fastest-growing economies over the last decade.

To fulfil that potential, Obasanjo pointed out that the continent’s leaders must do more to invest in the resource which will be its strongest competitive advantage in the global economy – its young and growing workforce.

It is a view that is outlined in his new book, Making Africa Work, written together with Dickie Davis and Greg Mills of the Johannesburg- based Brenthurst Foundation, a think tank aimed at sharing ideas on how to enhance the continent’s economic growth and development, and Jeffrey Herbst, president and CEO of the Newseum and the Newseum Institute. Given that the book has received widespread praise from a range of influential thinkers and political leaders on the continent, it is a view that is winning widespread support.

Obasanjo told The Voice:

“In order for our continent to flourish, we need better governments. There is no substitute for democracy. There must be an end to business as usual and greater investment in younger generations.

“We are capable of producing some of the brightest business minds of today, just look at (Nigerian billionaire and owner of the Dangote Group) Aliko Dangote, as politicians we just need to get out of their way and provide the right environment for growth.”

He also warned of the dangers of inaction on the issue.

“If nothing is done to harness its potential, it could not only be a liability for the continent, but it could be a disaster,” he said.

“African leaders are starting to realise that we have to think outside the box and have the courage to do what we have not done in the past. This involves real reform and change. We have to tell ourselves where we are going wrong and be courageous enough to seek out new ideas.”

For the full interview with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, get your free copy of Africa Celebrates magazine at the Voice stand at Africa On The Square this Saturday October 14 in Trafalgar Square, London.

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