Defining young people as those between 10 to 24 years of age, the WHO said out of 1.1 billion people in Africa, 3 out of 10 are said to be between the ages of 10 and 24. Given that the population is fast growing, the number of young people on the Continent would, therefore, double as the years unfold. Though a challenge to most governments of the developing countries, if properly managed, this very imperative asset, would be a positive factor that will see the continent attain its development agenda goals in the proceeding years. Human capital represents an important asset to the economy given its potentiality in boosting the economic revival of Africa.
WHAT IS HUMAN CAPITAL?
As broad the term ‘’human Capital’’ may be, the Organization for Economic Co-peration and Development OECD, defines it as “the knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances”. Thus, it can be summarized as an individual’s expertise or proficiency in giving to society. According to economists Gary Becker and Theodore Schultz, education and training were investments that could add to productivity. Looking at things from a practical point of view, few social pundits have argued that Human Capital is more attributed to the employee rather than the employer.
HOW CAN AFRICA HARNESS ITS HUMAN CAPITAL?
In the contemporary world, various African governments, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have recognized the importance of its vibrant youthful population or human capital in driving real economic growth on the continent. As such, they are at the verge of harnessing this asset. Education and health are the most important among them.
- Education: Over the years the African system of education has been more problematic as pundits have argued that it is more conservative and relies only on general approaches, for example, learning History, Geography, and Biology. Even though important, economists have also argued that the educational system does not favour technical or vocational training to harness the potentials of youths to fit into the economic world.
- Health care: Investing in the health of young Africans, especially women and girls, remains a top priority of many stakeholders. Identifying women and girls as good assets for economic development, leaders are at the verge of encouraging gender equality and attaining good demographic dividends. Thus investing better health for these youths makes them stronger and ready to fit in the market. Better health and proper education open the minds of these youths about the importance of a healthy life, reduces birth rates and encourages a more self-reliant economy. It is worth noting that during the 2017 edition of Youth Connekt Africa Summit, (a professional platform that brings youth Africans together to discuss on issues related to young people) the participants advocated for an improved healthcare especially on women and Children. According a pundit, healthy and vibrant African youths have the potentiality of becoming good economic actors in driving the economy.
No matter how naturally endowed the continent may be, if the most valuable asset necessary to exploit these resources are not properly harnessed, fast-tracking economic development on the continent remains farfetched and a long way to go for a continent like Africa. Unlike in developing nations, where young people are mostly perceived as liabilities or less important in nation building, most countries have identified the younger population as very important and having full potential in helping policymakers or governments fast-track economic development.
Like Tony Elumelu, Africa’s businessman and economist, Africa needs to emulate the positive ways of the global world to enhance its own proper growth. Nonetheless, leaders in Africa have started seeing the place of its youth in nation building, thus looking for proper ways to harness their potentials to suit the development agendas of the continent. For example, the 2017 AU summit gave ‘Youth investment’ a top priority in their agenda as they sought to address the demographic dividend which is an imperative factor for development.
Article from AFRIC Editorial