Brand SA chief executive, Kingsley Makhubela, said on the sidelines of a youth breakfast hosted by the organisation in Durban yesterday that WEF presented South Africa with a perfect opportunity to push through the African agenda.
“WEF is a useful platform for South Africa to connect with other countries within the continent and look at enhancing co-operation,” Makhubela said. “Notwithstanding the fact that we compete with some of the countries. As we compete we must also co-operate across the region.”
The continent has for the last few decades taken concrete steps to promote economic, social and cultural integration.
While all African countries are members of at least one regional economic group, the African Union has said more can be done to create economic co-operation on a continental level. In 1991 the Abuja treaty (Economic Community Treaty) was signed and came into effect in 1994 with the aim of integrating African economies.
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Makhubela said it was important for youth empowerment to take centre stage at the forum as the continent was getting younger and ripe to take advantage of the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“There is a perception that exists that WEF is just a gathering of the elites. We need to talk to young people about information and communication technology and innovation as that are what resonates most with the youth; they must define their own future and attain goals of the fourth industrial revolution.”
According to the UN, Africa had a youth population of 226 million in 2015. The organisation projected that by 2030 the number of youth on the continent would have increased 42 percent.
The Millennium Development Goals identified young people as among the most vulnerable sectors of the African population.
President Jacob Zuma earlier issued a statement calling for the forum to address the issue of youth development. “Africa’s large youth population presents the continent with an historic opportunity that must be taken advantage of we will benefit if young Africans are skilled, healthy, participating in a democracy as active citizens and participating in the productive labour force,” Zuma said.
According to Stats SA, South Africa in 2014 had a youth population of nearly 20 million with Gauteng being home to 4.5 million of this population group.
Makhubela said it was imperative to maintain South Africa’s standing on the continent. “The nation’s brand is dear to all South Africans, whether it is in business or civil society.”