By 2040, Africa’s population will be 2 billion lively souls, 1 billion more than today, and so many of these energetic people will be so young. By then, African youth will make up 40 per cent of the world’s young people.
We need to invest much more in them now if they are to form a team to score some historic global goals: the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty.
We know the young are energetic. Supported in the right way, they can be like rocket fuel to turbocharge a surge in African global prosperity.
But if they are not given the right opportunities, their frustrated energy could explode in everyone’s faces, derailing progress for us all.
When I was younger, I had the chance to channel my energy through education and sport. Now I wish all the young men and women of Africa to have a decent opportunity to channel their energies and live a life of dignity.
For them to be the fuel for global progress, they themselves need fuel: for their stomachs, and for their minds.
For their stomachs; we need to really surge our support for investing in agriculture to grow more and better food.
Leaders in Africa and around the world must do a better job of keeping their promises to invest in agriculture – integrating sustainability, climate resilience and agro-ecology.
It is still the best investment to lift the poorest out of extreme poverty, and good nutritious food boosts immunity and intelligence.
A key investment to boost agricultural productivity and grow more food is to ensure all the African farmers, specifically youth and women, get the same access to finance, bank loans and secure property rights.
This is a simple matter of justice but it is also economically smart: it would help lift 100 to 150 million out of extreme poverty and hunger. This is the kind of investment ONE’s “Strong Girl” campaign is calling for right now.
But along with stomachs, minds must also be fed. Young boys and girls must get equal access to primary and secondary schooling of a decent quality, leaving school with decent numeracy and literacy and IT skills. Girls especially leave school too early – wasting their development potential.
None of this progress comes for free. Promises to fund and deliver decent education, nutrition and boost agriculture have often been made. Africa’s people have been made so many promises. The challenge has been in the delivery of those promises.
Right now, millions of campaigners are demanding that all the nations of the world agree to a global compact for the delivery of these promises for the poorest people, especially the youth.
They are arguing that the poorest people, those living on less than $1.25 a day, are offered a basic package of services, covering essentials such as education and food and healthcare. Experts estimate this will cost only around $300-$500 per person per year.
Surely, this is what African governments should be focused on – then multiplied by money from the $120b a year the global aid industry spends.
So I was surprised to hear only few countries – both African and their partners – keep their promise of investing in sectors like agriculture and education. This must change.
A start would be to ensure at least half of aid goes to the very poorest countries, to support their efforts towards self-sufficiency.
The good news is all the nations of the world are meeting in Africa, in Addis Ababa, to consider a global aid and finance package to fight against extreme poverty, hunger, illiteracy. If these funds are delivered through open budgets so we can all keep an eye on how the money is spent, then we will win.
We can provide decent food, decent education and lives of dignity and opportunity for all of Africa’s youth.
I love working with a team and scoring great goals. If we work together and play by the rules, humanity can score these great global goals of hunger and poverty eradication.
Africa will be the young, dynamic and driving continent it should be – and help make a better world for us all. There has never been more to play for.
Yaya Toure is an Ivorian footballer playing in Europe; is multiple award winner and captain of the Ivorian national soccer team