Global Shapers: Young African leaders look beyond aid for development #ShapeAfrica – Japheth Omojuwa


It will be one of the least reported parts of the World Economic Forum for Africa sessions holding in Cape Town but the aptly named Shape Africa sessions of the Global Shapers will have more reverberating effects on the future of the continent than any other session. The reason is not far fetched; some of the young people sharing new practical ideas and innovative solutions for Africa’s development will be leading the change in their countries as Presidents, Ministers, Senators and the likes within the next decade. This is what makes the gathering of the 50 young people from across the continent just as important if not more important than the expectedly much celebrated regular WEF Africa sessions.


There were many positives to take from Shape Africa but two fundamental ones stand out for me. None of our solutions was focused on looking to have more aid sent to Africa. Not a single person saw foreign aid as something Africa must build its quest for prosperity on. This excited me more than anything else. Coming from a continent where its leaders have pursued foreign aid for the better part of half a century, it was refreshing to see that young African leaders are thinking in a more productive and engaging direction. We all agreed that the prosperity and economic freedom that Africans desire lies in the ability of the African in an environment that is conducive enough for productivity and self-determination.


The other thing that struck and impressed me was the fact that young people from across the continent agreed that when you give the average Nigerian enough support, you’d make millionaires of its many people. This reality was emphasized at one of the break out sessions on entrepreneurship and the solutions that work. It was learnt at the session that several incentives including tax breaks, grants and loans are in place for the average Moroccan to thrive as an entrepreneur but a pervading sense of the fear of failure has meant that many have failed to grab the opportunities offered by the system. Someone – a non-Nigerian – then said he imagined if they were Nigerians, they’d all become millionaires. That the average Nigerian thrives in the harshest of conditions is a renowned reality but virtually everyone agreed that this spirit was needed in the average African to engender an entrepreneurial culture across the land. In the end, we saw that we were united in the sense of knowing that the solutions that did not work for Africa in the previous years will certainly not work in the coming years.


Shape Africa ended yesterday but the new embers of friendship lit by these meetings will be what Africa needs to open itself to its people. Unlike in the past, future African leaders will have a history of friendship and brotherhood to fall on when they meet to discuss ways of developing the continent and their individual countries. A lot will be said about Shape Africa being another bla la bla for Africa session but anyone with an eye for the future will see that the relationships that Africans need to be truly united in one voice and one quest for continental development are being sown here. These ones will not close borders at themselves because they want to reach out to one another more than ever before.


Lagos or Abuja will host the next Shape Africa in 2014 in the run-up to the beginning of the World Economic Forum for Africa sessions. When 2014 comes, these leaders would have grown a year older and would have walked another year closer to being in charge of the destinies of their individual nations. Those who doubt the beauty of Africa’s future have certainly not been in the midst of these seeds of that future. As these Global Shapers’ relationships sprout to bear fruits in the coming years, that desirable future for the continent will be one of its many fruits. To this, one can only say Go Shapers! Go! Let’s go birth economic freedom…let’s go shape the prosperity of Africa.



Omojuwa writes on the Shape Africa sessions holding in Cape Town

The friendships that will spur economic freedom in Africa are being lit today….