africa rising

by David Irish | February 8, 2022

Elon Musk posits that one of the single greatest risks to human civilization is the ageing population of China and most of the developed world. He predicts that in these countries, by mid-century the youth are going to be “effectively enslaved to take care of the elderly”. By that time there will not be enough economically productive people to support the economy. Despite robotics, etc. the foundation of the economy is labour.1

To the contrary, almost 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 35. This presents the opportunity for the twenty first century to be Africa’s century. The century Africa breaks the shackles of colonialism and apartheid and becomes the next global powerhouse. But it will require a concerted effort by those who recognize the opportunity to bring it to reality.

Renette Pickering of gold-youth has written a brilliant summary of The Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings report on Africa’s ‘youth employment’ crisis. In essence, the report explains how there is a missing-jobs crisis, caused by fundamental structural problems in African economies that provide far too few opportunities for decent work.2

According to Pickering: “we note with interest that the AGI report exposes some of the myths about the links between education and employment. It shows that the youth most likely to be unemployed in low- and lower-middle-income countries are the most educated. While more education generally correlates with higher earnings, the relationship is not automatic—there must be jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities into which better skilled young people can step. The AGI studies stress that jobs do not exist today for many of Africa’s educated youth. Furthermore, a skills-matching survey conducted in Ghana and Uganda showed that 40% of employed people in Ghana and 25% in Uganda do not use their skills in their jobs, and that digital skills are least used. Moreover, 30% of African youth with at least a secondary education are over-skilled for their jobs, pointing to the potentially limited absorptive capacity of African labour markets.

The AGI report’s sobering findings indicate a misconception around the capacity for skills training to result in employment, especially where only narrow vocational training is offered. Non-sector-specific, transferable skills appear to be far more beneficial. These include literacy, numeracy, problem solving, communication and negotiation. There is a dire need for programmes that nurture confidence, build socio-emotional skills and active citizenship, and help youth to find mentors.”

Furthermore, “the report quotes an OECD study showing that only a tiny portion of youth entrepreneurs’ businesses are successful, and they primarily operate at a subsistence level that does not create new jobs for others.”

If I combine Musk’s comments with Pickering’s article my takeaways are:

  1. Africa needs jobs
  2. China and the developed world need productive labour
Therefore, China and the developed world need to significantly increase their investment in job-creating enterprises in Africa NOW in order to develop capacity and prepare for the future when they will have a critical need for skilled human resources.

Western investors have for decades been “Africa-hesitant” as a result of so-called structural obstacles to investment. These obstacles are set up by politicians with their own selfish agendas. Maybe it’s time for the likes of Elon Musk and other holders of global wealth to adjust their risk models to factor in their looming mid-century crisis and find ways to by-pass the politicians and invest in grass-roots level businesses that will meet the true needs of African communities as those communities see them, create jobs and build the capacity to be the next generation of the global workforce.

To support my point about not waiting for politicians and government to create jobs and uplift communities, a couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a friend of mine. Growing up as a fatherless gangster he served 10 years of an eighteen-year prison sentence. Whilst in prison he found faith, got paroled and worked his way up to the finance division of one of the country’s largest retail groups. He then left the corporate world and returned to the township of his youth to reach disaffected youth through football and a learning support centre. During that time, he found himself gathering the various community leaders, churches, businesses, and NGO’s operating in the township to work together to identify needs, share resources and collaborate towards transforming the community. He now does this full-time in several disadvantaged communities. But the one group he has learnt not to involve is: politicians. Clearly politicians and many parts of government have demonstrated they are not interested in serving the people but rather themselves. And so, it falls on us; the collaborative citizenry to just get on and make the changes ourselves.

Agriculture and agri-related industries are key areas in which Africa is naturally endowed and has the capacity to create many jobs. In her article, Pickering explains how, through their gold programme, gold-youth encourages youth to explore opportunities offered in agro-entrepreneurship and the food industry, and to look for inventive farm-to-fork solutions.

At wauko, we form part of an ecosystem of companies and experts all sharing the goal to regenerate and restore degraded land through the Restore Africa Funds (

We believe that if we work together to heal the land through community driven regenerative agriculture, this will ultimately lead to sustainable agri-related industries that the world surely needs and will do even more so in the future.

Agriculture is one of our core passions, for which we are actively seeking and receiving developed world investment through Restore Africa Funds. What industry is yours? And what can you do now to prepare the way for Africa to solve the world’s impending population collapse? We would love to hear from you.


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