Enhancing the Contribution of Innovation, Youth and Leadership in Africa and the African Diaspora

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Kojo Annan, Keynote speaker at the 9th Annual Africa-Australia Research Forum in Perth.

“Young people – with their dynamism, their energy and their inherent understanding of our interconnected world – have much to teach us… I am convinced more than ever that any society that does not succeed in tapping into the energy and creativity of its youth will be left behind” – Kofi Annan

While the world focuses almost exclusively on profiting from Africa’s wealth of natural resources, it almost entirely overlooks deploying the world’s most critical resource of all – Africa’s Youth.

Kofi Annan’s son, serial entrepreneur and investor Kojo Annan, used his key note address at the recent 9th Annual Africa-Australia Research Forum in Perth, Western Australia, to urge the Global African Community to realise “we are the village that must raise the child”.

Mr Annan said his father would be delighted to see so many people coming together at the forum, supporting his call for bolder action, in driving forwards and implementing Africa’s own agenda for transformation.

“We have ample opportunity to shift Africa’s story from one of poverty and corruption to one of abundance, equity and powerful, modern, all pervasive humanitarian style leadership,” Mr Annan said.

“However, despite this plethora of opportunity, Africa has remained resource-rich and outcome-poor.

“Gold, silver, diamonds, oil, copper, timber, etc. – all are abundant, and yet, these resources haven’t been enough to lift the continent out of poverty.

“Perhaps, because whilst the world at large focuses almost exclusively on profiting from Africa’s wealth of natural resources, it almost entirely overlooks deploying the world’s most critical resource of all – Africa’s Youth.”

Mr Annan said the African continent was literally teeming with young people, most of whom were under 21, comprising up to 60 per cent of their respective populations.

“As my father so eloquently put it “any society that does not succeed in tapping into the energy and creativity of its youth will be left behind”,” he said.

“However, despite being the world’s player makers, every 24 hours, over 22,000 young Africans join the ranks of the world’s unemployed.

“Is this really how are we going to treat the children of mother Africa? Is this how we expect them to win at the game of life?”

Mr Annan has founded an organisation called Africa10 (A10) to help unlock the potential of Africa’s youth through sport and education.

“We must turn our attentions to creating an A10 generation of champions both on and off the field who are fit enough to steer the continent forward.

“It’s time to turn our large youthful unemployed population into our strength. We have to equip them, educate them, and unleash them.

“So let’s as Africans and friends of Africa come together in my father’s honour and change the story of Africa, from poor and impoverished to successful and abundant.

“The spirit of the Africa Progress Panel must continue.”

(L) Kojo Annan, Entrepreneur in conversation with (R) Maximilian Jarrett, Murdoch University Honorary Fellow at the 9th Annual Africa-Australia Research Forum in Perth.

Murdoch University (https://www.Murdoch.edu.au/) hosted the Forum in association with Africa Down Under to support the University’s Third Commission, an initiative which seeks to strengthen Murdoch’s links with Africa across research and innovation expertise, strategic interest and networking capabilities within Australia, in Africa and globally.

The Third Commission focusses on the six themes firmly rooted in the agenda for action identified by the Africa Progress Panel as being in need of more signification research attention, bolder policy innovation faster implementation on the ground, enhanced political leadership, and the conceptualisation and roll out of innovative research solutions.

In her opening address for Africa Week, Murdoch University Vice Chancellor Professor Eeva Leinonen pressed the importance of collaboration in reaching shared global goals.

“It is only through researching together that we can create new knowledge and address issues of global importance,” Professor Leinonen said.

“Through initiatives like Africa Down Under and the Africa-Australia Research Forum we can better understand the effective structures that harness the formidable African brain power globally.”