Africa’s future growth depends on policies that allow free movement and enable young people to look for opportunities beyond national borders.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) secretary-general Mukhisa Kituyi said at the ongoing Kusi Ideas Festival at Intare Arena in Kigali that the continent currently has a generation of young people who were more interested in collaborations than competition.
Dr Kituyi spoke on the panel discussion themed, ‘Borderless Africa and why it is a winner’, that also featured Linus Gitahi, a board member of Msingi East Africa, and Rwanda Development Board chief executive Clare Akamanzi.
“These young people look for opportunities beyond national frontiers. They overlook analogue boundaries and all the physical boundaries as they chase their dreams. This is the future and governments now need to create policies for them to ease travel, access and movement across the continent,” Dr Kituyi said.
The panellists challenged Africa’s leaders to open up their borders to migrants and allow them to thrive within the continent as opposed to being self-centred and closed up, putting restrictive travel and migration policies.
“We need to understand that almost 53 percent of migrant movements is intra-African and for Africa, we should take advantage of this.
“Migrants are good both for the country they move to in terms of new and fresh human resource and also the countries they come from, through remittances. We need to encourage that,” Dr Kituyi said.
“The millennials want to trade the way they go about their activities in social media. We cannot do them a favour. In the next 60 years, Africa will realise a mobilisation competition and the best example is the teen activist who is mobilising her campaign through social media and mobilising for a cause. This is the future and we need to offer the best groundwork for this kind of people to thrive.”
Ms Akamanzi cited Rwanda as the perfect example of how a borderless vision can spur growth in the continent.
“There is no reason to fear to open our borders. And as Rwanda, we have championed this for the last five years and it’s helped us attract visitors, investments and this is what a borderless Africa entails,” she said.
“As a country, we have also done the policy to become a proof of concept where we open up policies, make it so easy to set up businesses. This is a good example with firms that have set up through ideas, prototypes and help them set up then expand to the rest of the continent. Those are some great examples of how this can be done.” Mr Gitahi challenged governments to focus on new educational curriculum pushing for technology.
“We have to invest in the right education that encourages entrepreneurship and create Digi-tech. It is now important that we must create and support nontraditional careers like creative arts, creative business,” he said.
“We have to aggressively support our youths to protect their assets. Governments should have policies that protect these creative ideas through patents and copyright registration.”
The participants also urged African governments to support the youth to access capital to promote their enterprise ideas to help them become viable and also create jobs.
“We must encourage our small and medium enterprises (SME’s) to integrate and prosper. We give them easy access to capital and also a good business environment. They are being run by young people and this will spur their growth story,” said Mr Gitahi.