Amidst global socio-economic competitiveness, can the present generation of African youth undo Africa’s overdependence on aid/gifts?

Africa is rising and her youthful population isn’t lacking behind. This is visible through the increasing ingenuity of a good number of African youths. Through independent multi-sectoral startups, these young hustlers are already making tangible contributions to national developments across the continent.

However, the search for funding for such ingenious initiatives, has resulted in their almost total dependence on foreign gifts, with its attendant consequences. It’s therefore important that this rising breed of African youths also rise against overdependence on foreign aid/gifts at this stage.

Africa’s Overdependence on Foreign Aid

Much of post-independent Africa largely depends on foreign aid, despite economic growth in parts of the continent significantly outpacing the global average. For instance, Ethiopia has a split personality as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The economy, between 2004 and 2013, grew by about 10% a year. The country has also been the center of attraction for foreign investors. Nevertheless, a third of Ethiopia’s population earn below $1 a day, with the government receiving $504 million (£324 million) in aid from the UK in 2011/12, thereby making it the biggest recipient of bilateral aid for the country that year.


Of course, such aid/gifts have often come with serious strings or conditions attached. In most cases, they serve the interests of the donors. The late erudite Pan-Africanist, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, posits that, “Independence cannot be real if a nation depends on gifts.”

According to Nyerere, real independence demands that African states negotiate with foreign donors on acceptable conditions for loans and gifts. This, however, is not the case as African leaders often reluctantly accept unilaterally set conditions by donors.

Overdependence of African youth startups on foreign gifts

Regrettably, most young African startups and youth-initiated small projects, are today also leaning towards overdependence on western donors. This is continuously being manifested through one-sided partnerships between initiators of these small projects and their western financiers.

Many Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other development initiatives run mostly by the youth, are victims of such overdependence. Their projects are totally dependent on western benefactors for financing. These benefactors dictate the tune in the management of these resources, most of which serve largely, the interests of such patrons.

It’s therefore, not uncommon to soon find such organizations or small projects transferred and managed from abroad. In some scenarios, the aid to such foundations, organizations or small projects hardly leaves the donor country. The initiators find themselves in donor nations through a technical form of brain drain. Cases where founders of such small projects or startups appear not to be absolutely loyal to donors or infringe laid down rules between the two, have mostly ended in litigation.

The way forward for the African Youths

In a 21st century society driven by the knowledge economy, the present generation of African youth must start thinking beyond aid. It’s unproductive and unprofitable for any young startup to spend valuable time seeking for aid or gifts from agencies that would dictate the rules of their operations.

Ingenious African youth should take initiatives to create innovative and salable ideas and not begging for funding. As future leaders, it’s not yet time to seek to be successful but time to seek to be valuable. Creative African youth must develop their gifts to be so valuable that they will receive payment to perform them.

Like President Akufo-Addo of Ghana pointed out during his keynote speech at the 2018 Oxford Africa Conference, the aid/gifts dependence mentality is a product of the economic structure defined for Africa by the colonial masters. It was never meant to economically transform the continent and its population.

That is why the socio-economic and political transformation of Africa in the 21st century cannot be gotten through aid. It has consequently, become necessary for African youths and governments of this generation to begin looking at Africa beyond aid.

Apart from her huge mineral deposits, Africa is also rich in vibrant human capacity.  This is resource that can effectively attract investors on equitable rules of engagement. The youths, as leaders of tomorrow, must reset their minds to deliberate qualitative change. Change, that seeks to abandon the colonially inherited economic structure.

The African youth must concentrate on developing their own gifts and not depending on gifts. Only through this can Africa and the future generation of her youthful leaders gain the respect of the world.

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