They say that youth is wasted on the young. But that's not true in Angola. Today, young people constitute the majority of the population, about 70%. They really are the future of the country.
Angola's current millennial generation faces a different situation from that of young people in 2002, when the civil war ended. The generation who lived through the war was shaped by insecurity and uncertainty. The war caused long-term disruptions to the social systems and infrastructure that typically supported youth. Young people at the beginning of the century were eager to restart their lives and make up for the opportunities they missed, in education and employment.
Fourteen years later, Angola's young people, same as those the world over, are influenced and inspired by music, social media and new technology. The Independent quotes a 26-year-old student: "Our generation did not live through many of the terrible experiences that the generation which governs us did. Many of us did not feel the war ourselves."
Today, Angola's young people have a different set of challenges and opportunities. The challenge is to cope with the effects of the decline in oil prices on the economy of Angola, Africa's second-largest oil producer. The opportunity is to develop and diversify their country beyond the oil economy. Angola's young people are the future of innovation in agriculture, tourism, healthcare, transportation and technology.
Angolans generally have a strong entrepreneurial culture. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor ranks Angola among the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. "Angolans are known in the international business community as entrepreneurial," says a young technology entrepreneur in an interview on the site Radar. And in fact, according to a report by the Angolan Women Entrepreneurship Federation (FEMA), more than 40% of women were entrepreneurs in 2015.
New technologies have helped to foster a new generation of entrepreneurs. But this same young businessperson also notes in the interview that "the startup environment is heavily skewed toward restaurants, beauty parlors, corner stores and small fashion boutiques." So part of the challenge is to provide the young people of Angola with what they need to launch the kinds of enterprises that will develop and diversify their country, and make a difference.
The government has recognized that young people need more assistance. The National Institute of Youth announced plans to set up a youth support center, a permanent space for young people to come together and share ideas, concerns and initiatives. Continuing improvements in education and infrastructure will also help. The private sector can also participate. For example, the African Innovation Foundation, established five years ago, has set up an innovation hub in Angola called the Fábrica de Sabão (the Soap Factory). It's intended as an incubator hub that includes co-working spaces, a cultural exchange platform, local radio station and a residence program for visiting mentors.
The youth of Angola, open to change and unburdened by the past, have the future in their hands. They will launch the enterprises that provide the solutions to Angola's ongoing development. The youth in Angola today hold the answers for tomorrow.
Zandre Campos is chairman and CEO of Angola Capital Investments (ACI), an international investment firm that invests in companies in the healthcare, energy, transportation, hospitality, technology and real estate sectors throughout Africa. The mission of ACI is to create global value for developing countries in Africa, while contributing to their economic development.