• Africa needs to attract more young people into public service – this is a key priority for @LindiMazibuko and many more
  • Corporates and governments alone cannot create the millions of jobs Africa needs. Only SMEs can, says @TonyOElumelu
  • Insufficient political will to actually deliver policy proposals is a frequent challenge in Africa, says @RosemaryMburu

Africa’s strong economic performance between 2000-2014 gave rise to great hope and optimism that a better quality of life for its citizens was taking deep root. Unfortunately, weaker growth and increasing political turbulence in many of its countries have since cast something of a shadow.

Although there will always be challenges and success stories in such a vast and diverse continent, it is clear that much work still needs to be done to realise Africa’s huge possibilities. To help its governments make the transition from potential to prosperity, we present 12 Top Tips from leaders we have previously spoken to from around the world.

1. Embrace and enable entrepreneurs

Tony Elumelu, business leader and philanthropist

“Corporates and governments alone cannot create the millions of jobs Africa needs. Only SMEs can. If we help people become entrepreneurs, they will succeed and then they will help others succeed while collectively tackling the issues that confront us as a people, such as the issue of poverty and the issue of joblessness. Small businesses create a multiplier effect where more young people gain employment through the jobs created.”

2. Build up political will

Rosemary Mburu, executive director, WACI Health

“In Africa, we have a big challenge around implementation of policies. Much of this is down to the fact that we lack sufficient political will to actually deliver the proposals, and so we want to make sure that the policies which exist have a clear plan for their delivery.”

3. Start with schools

Sharenjeet Shan, executive director of South Africa’s Maths Centre

“South Africa’s constitution tells us that all children are entitled to an education but if you’re walking up to 10km every day to and from school, often without breakfast, then all the disadvantages get compounded. Only half of the class of 2014 completed grade 12, which is the last grade at school. Where are the missing 500,000 students? Where did they go? Nobody can tell you that.”

4. Open access to international markets

Patrick Dlamini, chief executive, Development Bank of Southern Africa

“We need to make sure that Africa’s landlocked countries have a seamless facilitation of trade and flow of both people and goods. This means they need to cross borders to ports of entry and be both transparent and efficient – as they are in other countries. The sea-facing countries need to be efficient and, for example, make sure that the turnaround time for merchant shipping is quick at their ports. This is extremely important.”

5. Open up public service to the next generation

Lindiwe Mazibuko, South African politician and campaigner

“There is such a shortage of young people in public service, especially given that we are such a young country and in such a young continent. What cultural and systemic changes we need to make in order to reverse these numbers? I believe there are large numbers of young people out there who would love to run for office but just don’t know where to start – and this is where I want to be: helping them move on up.”

6. Target transformation, not just growth

Donald Kaberuka, former president of the African Development Bank

“Our overarching goal was always about enabling Africa to move to higher levels of global value chains, with development driven by trade and investment and becoming progressively less reliant on external aid. In short, not simply economic growth but economic transformation.”

7. Unleash the digital power of youth

Janet Longmore, founder, Digital Opportunity Trust

“The pace of digital change is so fast, so we need to focus on skills and self-empowerment – that ability to self-direct your learning and connect with others. It comes down to the behaviour of how you use technology and how they can figure out what works for them. This is what we are driving.”

8. Aim high for delivery

Belinda Wood, manager, Western Cape Government’s Delivery Support Unit

“Africa has its own unique context with its own unique challenges, but also its own unique opportunities. We’re already talking to other provincial governments about our experiences, as we want South Africa to be recognised as a centre for delivery in the continent.”

9. Adapt agriculture to climate change

Patrick Dupoux, senior partner and managing director at The Boston Consulting Group, Casablanca

“Although home to 54 countries and the world’s second largest and second most populous continent, Africa receives only 5% of all climate funds and only 4% for agriculture, while only 6% involve adaptation projects – the ones it needs the most and by far its biggest source of jobs. We described it as the “Triple-A” Gap – Africa, adaptation and agriculture, the three forgotten pieces of climate funding. And if you combine them, the scale of the challenge becomes even more acute.”

10. Be comprehensive to be effective

Hiroshi Kato, senior vice president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency

“Infrastructure and regional development is a very complex and multifaceted issue. You can’t just focus on a single sector and hope to have the desired impact. It is very important to be comprehensive in order to be effective. For this you have to have commitment – of course – and also the necessary capacity. Because this is such a challenging task, you need sufficient capacity in both governments and the private sector in order to move forward.”

11. Citizens, not subjects

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, anti-apartheid campaigner and academic leader

“Too many still accept being treated as subjects, rather than citizens. It’s not only the leaders’ conduct – it is citizens accepting this position. Many will tell you that if they don’t, then they run the risk of being abused. But for governments to be truly accountable, the word ‘citizens’ needs to be more operative in Africa. This will help prevent leaders opting to stay in power, irrespective of the democratic wishes of their people.”

12. Make water work

Adrien Portafaix, principal at The Boston Consulting Group, Paris

“It’s clear that urgent action is required – and every single person in South Africa has a role to play. Workshop participants identified four goals that were viewed as essential: become a water-conscious country with sufficient knowledge and skills in the water sector; implement strong water governance; manage water supply and demand regulations and protect water resources; and become a smart water economy.”

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