Obama’s vision & Africa's future

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The President understands how the continent urgently needs to liberate itself from old industries and strongmen

President Obama may have found the key to unlocking Africa’s economic potential while liberating it from ossified leadership: sparking the fuller economic and political participation of the continent’s now-frustrated youth.

Such an emergence is overdue. In 2009, when Obama addressed Ghana’s parliament, he denounced corruption and misgovernment in Africa, saying Africa doesn’t need “strong men” but “strong institutions.”

Yet six long years later, as Obama revisited the continent last and this week, many of the same unsavory characters are still around — aging, and in most cases consolidating their hold on power. To name a few: Yoweri Museveni, who’s ruled Uganda since 1986; Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s supremo since 1994; Paul Biya, lording over Cameroon since 1982; Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo, fleecing Equatorial Guinea since 1979.

Change is far less likely to come from within an aging generation than from the next one. With over a billion people, Africa also has the world’s most youthful population; 200 million are aged between 15 and 24, according to the African Development Bank.

But the economic power of the continent typically remains consolidated in the hands of the powers that be — who are the powers that have been. Congo’s minerals alone are estimated at roughly $25 trillion; Nigeria is the world’s 12th largest oil producer.

Those gold-mine industries reward entrenched power. It is youth — who think internationally and understand technology better than their elders — who can help unstick national economies.

Of course, there are risks of placing bets on the young, especially in a continent where the quality of education and training remain spotty. Youth unemployment ranges from 60% in South Africa to over 80% in Uganda. A World Bank survey in 2011 found that 40% of the youth who join rebel armies cited unemployment as a motivator.

For the rest of the article please see The New York Daily News

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