AGOA 2011 and the Young Africa Business Trust
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Jessica Achberger. Jessica is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Texas at Austin. She is conducting dissertation field research in Zambia and had the opportunity to attend several events for the AGOA forum this week in Lusaka. Here, she tells us about the Young Africa Business Trust video forum:
Many of you who read this blog are aware that this week in Lusaka, Zambia marked the tenth annual African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum, and therefore I will not bore you with the details of AGOA or this forum in particular. Rather, I want to share with you a unique story of a group at the conference that will not be mentioned on BBC or written about in The New York Times, but nonetheless is doing very important work at the forum and beyond the conversations this week.
On Tuesday I had the privilege of attending the pre-AGOA video forum of the Young Africa Business Trust (YafBT) at the World Bank Zambia country offices, which was simultaneously held at offices in Nairobi, Kenya; Abuja, Nigeria, Johannesburg, South Africa; and Washington D.C, as well as being webcast to the rest of the world. The YafBT held this video conference in order to prepare for what was to be the first time that the youth of Africa were given a voice and a platform as a group in AGOA.
The YafBT is a relatively new group, born out of the November 2010 conference Strengthening Responsible Business and Governance in Africa held in Brussels, Belgium. At the conference, the Africa Responsible Business Network (AfRBN), among other international governmental and business associations, founded the YafBT. Both the YafBT and the AfRBN are networking platforms for African business professionals, focusing on the promotion of responsible business and governance, particularly job creation though sustainable economic development.
The meeting on Tuesday was engaging and fruitful, with all countries participating in developing the platform for the larger forum. I encourage you to check out the results of the conversations, and the continuing discussions, on their website. You are also encouraged to participate in the YafBT’s growth and vision, no matter what your age. As the Tanzanian coordinator Modesta Lilian Mahiga put it, “Anyone that says ‘I will’ rather than ‘I wish’ is a young person to us.”
And it is clear that the youth in African business are already hard at work across the continent. I met many young entrepreneurs with innovative business models and already evident success. Yet, as Zambian coordinator Humphrey Mulemba emphasized, one of the key components involves leveling the playing field for young business leaders though initiatives such as mentorship programs and the creation of industry specific support systems.
This year at AGOA the focus has been on the African Women Entrepreneurship Program, and it is clear that women are fully apart of the larger AGOA agenda with very fruitful results. What the YafBT is proving this year, and hopefully further in years to come, is that it is time for youth to get the same recognition in Africa. Over 70% of Africa is under 34 years of age and it is not only crucial but rather essential that this population is developed and given a voice in the international arena.
Thank you again to Texas in Africa for allowing me the chance to post on such a great forum for discussions on Africa.