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Ugandan Tycoon Thakkar becomes chair of African Development Bank Youth Advisory Group

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FORBES – The President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, recently launched the Presidential Youth Advisory Group (PYAG) to provide insights and innovative solutions for job creation for Africa’s youth, as outlined in the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (JfYA). The Jobs for Youth in Africa initiative aims to create 25 million jobs and benefit 50 million youth over the next 10 years by equipping them with the right skills to get decent and meaningful jobs. It is currently the largest effort going on for youth employment in Africa today.The advisory group, inaugurated on the sidelines of the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum in Abidjan on Monday, November 27, will work with the Bank to create jobs for Africa’s youth.

Ugandan serial entrepreneur, Ashish J. Thakkar was appointed the Chair of the Presidential Youth Advisory Group (PYAG). I recently caught up with him and he spoke briefly about the group’s mandate and its strategy to meet its objectives.

You were just nominated by the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, to chair his Presidential Youth Advisory Group (PYAG). What is the mandate of the group?

Yes, we just launched the Presidential Youth Advisory Group jointly with President Adesina on Monday, 27th November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on the sidelines of the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum. We know that more than 8 million young Africans that enter the labor markets each year do not find formal employment or have the means to start their own, value-adding business. This is a tremendous challenge. The PYAG will provide insights and innovative solutions to spur decent jobs for Africa’s youth as outlined in the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (JfYA).

What are the strategy’s targets and how will the PYAG help achieve these?

The PYAG will support the Bank in achieving and exceeding the Strategy’s targets by 2025, namely creating 25 million jobs for African youth and equipping a total of 50 million youth with the necessary skills to succeed in current and future labor markets. It is a great honour for me to serve our continent in this function. We know that the stakes are high, but we are committed to the task of creating flourishing youth businesses that provide tremendous value.

We are also focused on facilitating the achievement of AfDB’s High 5s and the Sustainable Development Goals. We will bring new thinking vis-à-vis the future of jobs and the jobs of the future. For this, we will leverage on the networks that we have individually and collectively, together with the African Development Bank, to ramp up and speed up on the ground delivery, country by country, for tangible benefits to African youth.

What is the composition of the PYAG and why were they selected?

The contributions by the PYAG members are unrivalled. Each of them has already made a positive mark on the continent. And we can do more. Mara Group is just one example of what young entrepreneurs can achieve. We now employ over thousands of people, many of them youth, and we are growing. So are the businesses of my colleagues. Now is the time to invest in them!

Can you give us a bit more background on each of the PYAG members?

Absolutely. I am the Chair of the PYAG, the other members are also well-known, young, stupendously successful businesswomen and businessmen. They are Uzodinma Iweala, an author from Nigeria that already inspired many of us; Mamadou Touré from Cameroon, the Founder and CEO of Africa 2.0 / Ubuntu Capital. Anybody who talks about youth in Africa knows Mamadou for his great work with young African entrepreneurs. Vanessa Moungar from Chad, is Director of the Gender, Women and Civil Society Department at AfDB.

She is also member of President Macron’s Presidential Council for Africa. Vanessa joins with a wealth of knowledge, contacts from her former work at the World Economic Forum and her own entrepreneurial success story. Francine Muyumba from the Democratic Republic of Congo is the President of the Panafrican Youth Union. She similarly needs no introduction, an acknowledged African youth leader made in Africa. Jeremy Johnson, American, is the Co-founder of Andela. He is spearheading tech-driven education reform in Africa. His work is a tsunami of ICT innovation. Clarisse Iribagiza from Rwanda is the CEO of Hehe Ltd., a highly successful and expanding mobile application and software company.

She has won numerous awards and has also been included in the Forbes list of Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs. Ada Osakwe from Nigeria is the CEO of Agrolay Ventures. We all know her for her investments in the agricultural and food sector in Africa. Who doesn’t love Nuli juice? Monica Musonda from Zambia is the CEO of Java Foods, a prime example of African innovation and leadership. You can see why I am thrilled about working with the team and the African Development Bank.

What did President Adesina request from you and the group during your exchange with him?

President Adesina and I have been speaking about how to solve our unemployment issue on the continent for many years. We both are extremely passionate about the fact that the youth on our continent can be and are a huge asset if we invest and nurture them well. Hence getting together a group of individuals who are equally passionate was very important. During the launch he said “the PYAG is an opportunity for leading young voices in Africa to develop new and fresh perspectives and innovative solutions that will shape AfDB’s support to African countries, and reduce the scourge of youth unemployment”.

During his speech he clearly stated what he expects from us: “PYAG members must be at the forefront of efforts that champion young people’s interests. We need to look at young people’s capacity and drive, believe in them to do great things, change how people look at young people in Africa. We urgently have to shift from empowerment to investment to help unlock the potential of our youth. The best return on investment that can be made is investing in our youth”.

What are the next steps?

We have just concluded our work program for the next year. Each member of the Group has been assigned a role and a clear objective, my team and I will be working closely with each member. We have hit the ground running. We will also regularly update on the progress we make jointly with our partners. So stay tuned. I’m excited. This brings the voice of African youth to a new level,

I have always said that the youth are not the leaders of tomorrow, we are the leaders of today and this just further proves it.

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