Dr Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, details the progress of youth-focused investment to Africa’s participation in 4IR. Photo: Xinhua

JOHANNESBURG – Africa's boundless hope can be felt by those who invest here. Africa today has 6 out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. Africa is also the second destination in attracting foreign direct investment, second only to Asia. 

This year African Development Bank projects that Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth will rise to 4 percent, double what it was in 2016 and that 45 percent of the countries will experience growth rates of above 5 percent. That is way above the global growth average of 3 percent.

The optimism investors have on the future economic prospects of the African continent was demonstrated at the first Africa Investment Forum which was held in Cape Town in November of 2018. The buzz went out around the world and 2 000 participants showed up, with investors from 53 countries. A total of $38.7 billion (R543bn) of investment interest for projects was secured in less than 72 hours.

The Investment Forum focussed sharply on investment transactions aimed at helping to change the lives of people on the continent.  

The greatest asset of Africa is its youth population, currently estimated at 250 million and expected to rise to 840 million by 2050, making it the youngest continent in the world whilst many parts of the world are witnessing rapidly ageing populations. 

Africa must become the brimming workshop of the world – with a knowledgeable and highly skilled workforce that is able to propel the continent into the

In collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn and Safaricom, the African Development Bank is developing 20 computer coding centres across Africa to provide cutting edge coding skills to help turn the youth into job creators.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is investing $24 million in Andela, a startup company by a young Nigerian, to nurture software developers for the world, out of Africa. 

The African Development Bank's investment of $40m in the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in Rwanda, today helps train hundreds of top-notch ICT experts in a world-class Masters program in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University. One of the graduates of the programme, 30-year old Clarisse Iribagiza, grew her IT company which she recently sold for a whopping $20m. 

These investors and partners are well aware of the continent’s challenges, but they see opportunities beyond them.

It is these opportunities that South Korea also sees as it partners with the African Development Bank. In May 2018, the government of South Korea hosted

Ministers of finance from across Africa gathered for the Korea-Africa Forum for Economic Development (KOAFEC). The government of South Korea signed a bilateral agreement for $5bn support for Africa. It renewed its Korea Trust Fund at the African Development Bank with an additional $18m, bringing the fund to about $100m, to support capacity building for Africans. 

The African Development Bank is setting up a Korea-Africa Tech Corps program that will link the young and bright tech entrepreneurs between Korea and Africa, in what will be a partnership for building our commonwealth. Across all of Asia, from Japan to China and India, there are thriving partnerships that will make Asia and Africa grow together. 

At present, South Korean scientists from Silla University are helping Tunisians deploy drones to assess and monitor soil degradation. Rwanda is the first country in the world with a drone port, allowing it to transport blood for transfusion to remote highlands. 

And more can be done, to build on Africa's giant strides in mobile telephony. Today, Africa leads the world in the number of mobile phones. The mobile money transfer system that is taking the world by storm started in Africa, with the M-PESA in Kenya, which now allows at least $23bn to be moved through mobile phones.

To power Africa's drive into the fourth industrial revolution, the African Development Bank is investing heavily in building ICT infrastructure across the continent. The investment of $300m in the Central Africa Backbone will accelerate internet access across this landlocked region.

A digitally smart Africa will emerge, driven by technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Appreciating the need for a solid infrastructure to enable the technology revolution, the African Development Bank in 2018, connected 4.5 million people to new or improved electricity, provided access to better transport services to 14 million people and provided improved access to water and sanitation to 8 million people.

These achievements may seem to be impressive but the needs in Africa are higher and we have still got a long way to go until we provide universal. If governments improve transparency, governance and accountability, corruption will fall and the path to sustainable development will be cleared.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina is the President of the African Development Bank. He shared this at the 2019 World Peace Summit in Seoul, South Korea on February 9, 2019.

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