Africa and Young People: Becoming Agents of Change

There are more people under the age of 20 in Africa, than anywhere else in the world, and the continent’s population is set to double to two billion by 2050.

It is these young people that have the ideas, energy and creativity to make the world a better place - but only if they are given the opportunities to do so.

This week, I have been in Dublin for this year’s One Young World Summit - a global forum for the world’s future leaders.

It brings together 1,300 young leaders from across the world and, as a Counsellor, I have been speaking to hundreds of these young leaders about how they can harness their skills and ideas for both success and positive social impact.

One Young World is something that is close to my heart as it plays exactly to my belief that entrepreneurship can help solve society’s problems and empower young people to change our world for the better. Bringing these people together is an amazing opportunity for them to discover a worldwide support network of like-minded individuals.

That is why last month I launched a social business, The Key is E, to highlight the importance of channelling the power of education, entrepreneurialism and creativity to impact social change.
 
Emmanuel Jal - an internationally renowned musician, ex-child soldier and political activist - and I, founded this social business after meeting at last year’s One Young World Summit in Johannesburg. We share a vision on the importance of bringing people together as a compelling agent for positive change.

At the core of the business is an idea very similar to what I’ve witnessed at One Young World: we are connecting the wealth of African social entrepreneurs with those in the diaspora of Africa who have capital, mentor opportunities, access to markets, training opportunities, etc. We’ve noticed that nobody has really done this properly, and technology offers us a fantastic opportunity to do it well.

When you hear the story of Emmanuel’s childhood, you realise why so much of his music and his work focuses on improving the rights and opportunities for young people across the globe. It’s something we’re both extremely passionate about and place at the heart of everything we undertake.

We see entrepreneurship as a great way of improving children's lives and rights; it’s the ultimate purpose of our social business. Emmanuel’s latest album, The Key, is part of that. It’s a call for youth engagement and children's rights, a mixture of commercial and activist songs all bound by their focus on youth power.
 
The idea behind The Key is E is that our ‘E’ can really be anything - we want people to be able to relate to the issues that are important to them. We focus on four pillars; education, engagement, empowerment and enticement, but by inviting others to tell us what their own ‘E’ is as we want to make it a project for everyone.

Using education as an example, we are running a pilot project in Kenya later this year to provide budding entrepreneurs with a range of opportunities to turn their business ideas into a reality. This includes mentoring, crowdfunding loan opportunities, school and university link-ups to the UK, seed or growth capital through a loan or equity investment and a supportive network of like-minded entrepreneurs.

By offering these opportunities, we will be opening the door for young entrepreneurs in Africa to become agents of change in their community and to run a successful business that also socially benefits those young people around them.

Keep smiling,

Paul