This House believes that new technologies will make entrepreneurs of Africa’s youth.

This debate centres around two crucial changes occurring across Africa: technology and a youthful population. The demographic transition, occurring internationally, showcases the rise of a ‘youth bulge’[1]. Across the developing world statistics show youths will account for <25% of the population by 2020[2]; and in Africa the figures are higher. In Africa today, 70% of the population is under 30 and by 2020 youths (15-29) are projected to account for ~28% of the population[3]. In response to the identified demographic changes questions are being raised concerning why such trends are emerging; what youths are doing; why youths matter, and to what extent the rising young population present a resource for developing countries. In focusing on youths in Africa, two extreme discourses have emerged. First, youths are being identified as entrepreneurs - they hold the resources, skills, and drive, to start up new businesses and markets. As the World Development Report (2007) states, the increasing proportion of youths represents an untapped resource for Africa. Secondly and alternatively, discussion on youths has also centered on their ‘dangerousness’. Youths have been defined, and branded, as criminals, violent actors, and leaders of conflict[4]. In this perspective, current projections of a ‘youth bulge’ in Africa are a cause of concern and risk needing to be monitored, not opportunity.

Additionally, a technological shift across Africa has received attention. Africa has gone digital, and is using technology to contribute to national GDPs and create a new position within the global-economy[5]. Over half of urban consumers have access to 'internet-capable devices'. The emergence of technology, and mobile devices, across the continent is presenting new opportunities for productivity, social policy, and individual livelihoods. However, to what extent is Africa's 'technological revolution' a reality for all; is it the right technology; and can it change the perception of Africa? More importantly what is it being used for?

In focusing on the role of technology this debate shifts focus to understand what changes will arise for young people across Africa. An entrepreneur reflects someone with innovative ideas and an ability to manage them in order to enhance the efficiency of a firm. Can technology provide a solution to create new jobs and more entrepreneurs? Can it integrate, and include, youths in society? Can the technology actually be used by youths to explore their talents, ambitions, and desires?

[1] Typically ‘youth’ reflects a stage of transition between childhood and adulthood; defined as being aged between 15 and 29, however, it is important to note variations emerge in the definition of youths across Africa. For example in Tanzania a youthful population is defined as being under 25 years, while the African Youth Charter define ‘youths’ between ages of 15 and 35.

[2] World Bank, 2012.

[3] World Bank, 2012.

[4] Urdal, 2006.

[5] The Internet’s contribution to GDP is uneven, with Senegal and Kenya shown to be pioneers in the internet revolution (McKinsey and Company, 2013). See further readings: McKinsey and Company, 2013.


Technology will lead job growth for youths.

The rate of unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa remains above the global average, at 7.55% in 2011, with 77% of the population in vulnerable employment[1]. Economic growth has not been inclusive and jobs are scarce. In particular, rates of youth unemployment, and underemployment, remain a concern[2]. On average, the underutilisation of youths in the labour market across Sub-Saharan Africa stood at 67% in 2012 (Work4Youth, 2013). Therefore 67% of youths are either unemployed, inactive, or in irregular employment. The rate of unemployment varies geographically and across gender[3]

There remains a high percentage of youths within informal employment. Technology can introduce a new dynamic within the job market and access to safer employment. 

Secure, high quality jobs, and more jobs, are essential for youths. Access to technology is the only way to meet such demands. Technology will enable youths to create new employment opportunities and markets; but also employment through managing, and selling, the technology available.

[1] ILO, 2013.

[2] Definitions: Unemployment is defined as the amount of people who are out of work despite being available, and seeking, work. Underemployment defines a situation whereby the productive capacity of an employed person is underutilised. Informal employment defines individuals working in waged and/or self employment informally (see further readings).

[3] Work4Youth (2013) show, on average, Madagascar has the lowest rate of unemployment (2.2%) while Tanzania has the highest (42%); and the average rate of female unemployment stands higher at 25.3%, in contrast to men (20.2%).


Recent evidence by the World Bank indicates unemployment is not only due to the limited availability of jobs. A high proportion of youths have been identified as ‘idle’ - not in school, training, or work, and not actively seeking employment. Although variations are found, in 2009 only ~2% of male youths, aged 15-24, and ~1% of female youths, who were not in school or employment in Tanzania, were actively looking for work[1]. Without motivation technology will not make a difference.

[1] WDR, 2013. 

Technology has driven youths to identify new markets

A key technology for youths are mobile phones and devices. Across West and East Africa the possession of mobile phones has enabled citizens to network and form solutions to social problems. By 2015, there are expected to be 1 billion mobile cellular subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa (Sambira, 2013). This is the first African generation directly accessing high-technology, although uncertainty remains in the amount of youths having access to technology. Through mobile phones new business opportunities, and flows of money, are being created. Furthermore, mobile phones are providing innovative solutions to health care treatment, ensuring better health for future entrepreneurs and youths.

SlimTrader is a positive example[1]. SlimTrader uses mobile phones to provide a range of vital services - from airplane and bus tickets to medicine. The innovative e-commerce provides a space to advertise skills, products, and opportunities - to, on the one hand, identify new consumer demands; and on another hand, create notices to exchange goods.

Mobile technology is making it faster, quicker, and simpler to tap into new markets[2].

[1] See further readings: SlimTrader, 2013; Ummeli, 2013.

[2]See further readings: Nsehe, 2013. Inspite of challenges Patrick Ngowi has earned millions through the construction of Helvetic Solar Contractors.


Currently 3 in 4 youths work informally or within vulnerable employment - working without a formal written contract (Work4Youth, 2013). Although technology may create new markets it will not change the type of employment youths engage in. The use of technology will mean a majority of youths will continue to work informally - without access to social security, a valuable pension scheme, and social protection in the event of a crisis. Self-employment and having the flexibility to connect to different markets provides a temporary fix and income. Stability and security is not provided for youths.

Technology is building a platform for sharing ideas.

Entrepreneurialism can be encouraged through an awareness, and sharing, of new ideas. The technological revolution has provided a platform for personal expression, delivery of up-to-date news, and the vital sharing of local ideas and thoughts. In Nigeria the Co-Creation Hub has emerged, encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit. Further, Umuntu and Mimiboards’ are connecting individual communities to the web by encouraging local content creation[1].

Such platforms are enabling the transfer of knowledge and innovative ideas. Innovative solutions are being introduced to routine problems, such as ‘Mafuta Go’ an app to find the best price for petrol (Christine Ampaire).

[1] See further readings: Co-Creation Hub Nigeria, 2013


Such platforms are known, and accessible, by a minority within Africa - limiting who benefits from the technology available. Rising entrepreneurs across Africa typically are able to access resources required and network their ideas, whilst a majority of youths remain out of the innovation loop.

As inequality disparities continue to increase in Africa, a similar trend is identifiable to youth technology and entrepreneurialism. Entrepreneurs rising in Africa show the future of a ‘young millionaire’s club’. They hold the right connections, access to credit and electricity, and time to apply to their business model. The millionaire entrepreneurs continue to create new technologies - not vice-versa. 

Changing education systems and democracy.

Technology has enabled access to e-books and resources for students and teachers[1]. Such changes have enabled improved efficiency in teaching, with the availability of up-to-date resources and awareness of relevant theories. Furthermore, the ease by which students are able to access multiple resources and buy books online is expanding their intellectual curiosity and library.

In addition to raising new students, technology can be seen as a tool for democracy. Technology provides a tool for government accountability, transparency in information, and for good governance. Organisations, such as Ushahidi (Crowdmapping) following Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence; and mySociety which updates citizens on parliamentary proceedings in South Africa, show how technology is feeding democratisation for youths[2].

[1] See further readings: Turcano, 2013.

[2] See further readings: Treisman, 2013; Usahidi, 2013.


Despite programs distributing technology into schools does the availability of technology provides future benefits? Having a tablet does not ensure teachers are well-trained to assist and guide the children. Without proper oversight it might prove more of a distraction. Technology in schools might also mean students having technology substituted for teachers. With programs still being implemented, and results variable, the causality between technology, education, and the rise of well educated, motivated, youths remains precarious.  

Technology has enabled Africa’s cultural industries to grow.

Technology has enabled the development of entrepreneurial ideas for business, but also within Africa’s cultural industry. Access to video recording mobile phones, the internet, and televised publications has created a new culture of expression for African youths. Cultural industries are raising critical questions for politics, and empowering youth to tell their stories. The use of journalism has become mobilised by youths - as seen in initiatives such as, African Slum Voices, of which are encouraging youths to pro-actively raise their opinions and voices on issues occurring within their communities.

Furthermore, the music and film industry in Africa has arisen as a result of access to new technologies at a lower-cost. Two key components responsible for the growth of Nollywood (Nigeria’s Film Industry) include access to digital technology and entrepreneurship. Youths have become vital within Nollywood, as actors, producers and editors. Today Nollywood’s low-budget films have inspired the growth of regional film industries across Africa and contributed to its status as the third largest film industry. Nollywood’s revenue stand’s at around $200mn a year[1].

[1] See further readings: ABN, 2013.


Cultural industries don’t always provide a positive role. If entrepreneurial youths today are using technology to create films on witchcraft in the public sphere, what effect will this have on future generations? Growth cant just rely on creative industries as there needs to be money created to drive demand for these films, and any money that might be made by the creative industries are undermined by piracy. Without a solution small time films are hardly the most secure of jobs.

Technology will not result in entrepreneurialism without providing a foundational basis.

The key constraint for entrepreneurship is the lack of access to finance, credit, and basic infrastructure - whether a computer or technical skills on how to use different systems. Limited accessibility acts as an obstacle to entrepreneurialism.

In order to encourage an inclusive capability for youths to get involved in entrepreneurial ideas, technology training and equal start-up credit is required. Furthermore, dangers arise where credit has become easily accessible - putting individuals at risk of debt where a lack of protection and payment planning is provided.

Kenya’s Uwezo Fund provides a positive example, whereby action has been taken to provide youths with safe credit. The government collaboration is calling for youths to apply for grants and loans in a bid to encourage entrepreneurial activity for all. Loans are interest-free. 


Credit is now becoming more accessible through technology. Mobile-banking schemes such as MPESA across East Africa and ZAAB in Somalia, use mobile phones to transfer money and payments. The mobile banking scheme is increasing the efficiency of borrowing money from social circles, enabling quick transactions to be carried out, and introducing users to a wealth of market opportunities.

Technology is integral to entrepreneurship. 

The technological revolution has been hyped.

Debates may be raised as to whether the technological revolution is actually a reality across Africa[1]. Have expectations been too high; the benefits exclusive; and the reality over-exaggerated?

On the one hand, the type of technology raises significant questions. Although the population with access to a mobile phone has risen, the quality of the phones indicates a hyped-reality. Although technology has become easily accessible, the quality of such technologies puts constraints on what it can be used for. A vast majority of mobile phones are imported from China - at low-cost but also poor quality. Quality testing on imports, and locally produced products, is needed to approve market devices.

On another hand, the reality of internet connectivity is not high-speed, and therefore of limited use. Better connectivity emerges in certain geographical locations, to those who can afford higher prices, and within temporary fluxes. 

[1] See further readings: BBC World Service, 2013.


The technological revolution across Africa is broad, ranging from mobile technology to internet connectivity. The availability of mobiles has broadened who can use technology - being more inclusive to multiple socio-economic groups.[1] has been established to resolve issues, making connectivity affordable. The initiative, which involves a collaborative partnership between Facebook and technological organisations, has a vision of ensuring access to the internet for the two-thirds who remain unconnected. Connectivity is a fundamental necessity to living in our ‘knowledge economy’. Their mission has centred on three aspects: affordability, improving efficiency, and innovative partnerships to expand the number of people connected. Intervention has therefore focused on removing barriers to accessing information by connecting people.

Furthermore in Kenya, mobile phones have been made accessible to a wider audience through the removal of the general sales tax in 2009.

[1] See further readings:, 2013.

Technology remains insecure and a security risk.

The internet remains at risk. Cybersecurity is a key concern, and the prevalence of hacking events across Africa identifies the need to promote security for the new digital users. Cyber-crime costs the Kenyan government around Ksh.2 billion (Mutegi, 2013); and affects around 70% of South Africans. In order to encourage more users in technology their safety, against fraud, hacking, and identity theft, needs to be prioritised. Without security technology can’t help entrepreneurs as customer details, business plans etc can’t be kept private.


Technology is enhancing security, not threatening it. Measures are being implemented to ensure cyber-security and further technology is creating new, local, initiatives for security on the ground. Ushahidi Crowdmapping - an interactive, collective, mapping tool - was used to expose, and remember, political violence that occurred in Kenya’s 2007 presidential election[1].

[1] See further readings: Ushahidi, 2013.

Technology has only benefited private companies.

Ultimately, technology, its provision, distribution, and function, is based on a business model. Profits are sought and losers emerge. The technology hype has attracted global technology giants, ranging from IBM to Google – a key issue as to whether entrepreneurialism can emerge amongst youths and technology used sustainably. The monopolisation of technology markets by multinational companies puts constraints on the ability for small businesses to break through. Any profits created are not recirculated in their locality, or Africa, but return to the country of origin.

For entrepreneurialism to be gained, and youth jobs emerge, the technological giants investing in Africa’s rising future need to partner with communities and small businesses. 


Several examples may be found on established partnerships between multinational technology firms and civil-society groups. Microsoft has become a key investor in South Africa to tackle youth unemployment.

Microsoft has established a Students to Business initiative in South Africa, aiming to build human capital and provide professional skills to students, thus assisting job opportunities. Multinational companies are investing in youths as they recognise the burden of high unemployment and the potential talents youth have. By providing young students with key skills and sharing knowledge, a new generation of technology developers, leaders, and entrepreneurs will arise.


Hanai, T. 2013, ‘70% of South Africans Have Fallen Victim to Cyber-Crimes’, The Times,

ILO (International Labour Organisation), ‘Global Employment Trends 2013: Facts and Figures for Sub-Saharan Africa’, 2013,

Lin, Y, J., ‘Youth Bulge: A Demographic Dividend or a Demographic Bomb in Developing Countries?’, World Bank Blogs, 2012,

Mutegi, L. ‘ Kenya Government Loses an Estimated Ksh. 2 billion to Cyber Crime Attacks’, CIO, 2013,

Sambira, J. ‘Africa’s Mobile Youth Drive Change: Cell Phones Reshape Youth Cultures’, Africa Renewal, 2013,

Work4Youth, ‘Work4Youth Regional Conference’, 2013,

WDR (World Development Report), Development and the Next Generation, World Bank: Washington, 2007.

WDR (World Development Report), Jobs, The World Bank, Geneva, 2013,,,contentMDK:23282227~pagePK:8261309~piPK:8258028~theSitePK:8258025,00.html

Urdal, H. ‘A Clash of Generations? Youth Bulges and Political Violence’, International Studies Quarterly, 50, 3, p 607-629, 2006.