Africa’s Time Is Now

It’s telling that people all over the world, in consultations with the United Nations, chose a goal that specifically addresses the need for economic growth and jobs to alleviate poverty. It is reflective of a broad shift in emphasis to more meaningful and inclusive economic growth across the globe. That growth is not just about expanding national economies, but the real emphasis is on ensuring that we reach the most vulnerable people in society.

I am honored to be chairing the United Nations Foundation, Global Entrepreneurship Council, and I aim to particularly focus on this opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their role in sustainable development. I have always believed that business can be a powerful force for social good.

I am a strong advocate for the belief that Africa’s time is now. With the fastest global population-growth projection, and a sizable small- and medium-size enterprise sector, accounting for 90 percent of Sub-Saharan African businesses, Goal 8 will have particular impact on Africa.

The scale of the ambition is evident in some of the proposed targets to achieve this goal: boost productivity of economies through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation; encourage formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises including through access to financial services; substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training by 2020.

But how do we hit these targets? Technology is one of the main factors that will enable more inclusive economic growth in Africa. The mobile ecosystem is a major driver of economic progress and welfare globally; if deployed appropriately, it has the potential to solve some of Africa’s development challenges. Mobile penetration is already showing promising results, with various reports putting the number at 52 percent in 2012 and is expected to grow to around 79 percent by 2020.

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