Professor Sir Paul Collier, a renowned global development economist, has called on Africans to make the development of its youthful population a priority by creating a prosperous future for them.
Sir Collier said this in his address at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) public lecture series in Accra held under the theme: “Africa: Old Impediments, New Opportunities”.
The lecture was organised as part of the IEA’s mission to promote good governance in Ghana and across Africa.
Prof Sir Collier is the current Director of the International Growth Centre, the Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University and a former Director of the Research and Development Department at the World Bank.
He said the new opportunity for Africa was its youthful demography with the rest of the world basically becoming short of youth.
Prof Sir Collier, who described Africa as the continent of youth, suggested that what Africa needs now was a change in its structure of activities to accommodate the youthful population.
He said agriculture in Africa must be modernised in order to make it more attractive to the youth.
According to the United Nations, Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050.
Whether this spells promise or peril depends on how the continent manages its “youth bulge”.
The World Bank has said 40 per cent of people who join rebel movements are motivated by lack of economic opportunity.
Prof Sir Collier said: “Ghana is the first to gain independence and can pioneer the way for Africa, just as with the way they manage their natural resources. Just as China copied South Korea. Ghana can be pioneers for other African countries to copy.”
He said managing public spending process was very challenging, saying that “what we need is a very good capacity of public investment”.
“Don’t borrow on the essence of the oil and spend it on consumption. Don’t borrow and consume, save and invest,” he added.
He said a major challenge of developing a country was the way to finance its economy.
“Ghana has a lot of natural resources which could potentially be harnessed to build opportunities for the future. We need to equip our young people with the capabilities and the physical infrastructure,” Prof Sir Collier said.
Dr Charles Mensa, the Founder and Chairman of the IEA, called for the creation of the proper framework for the nation’s natural resources to generate enough income for its socio-economic development.
He said the governance of the nation’s natural resources rest in the hands of Ghanaians and not its development partners.
Nana Kobina Nketsia V, the Paramount Chief of Essikado Traditional Area in the Western Region, who chaired the function, said one does not walk on gold and still be stained with poverty.
“If you walk on gold and you are still stained with poverty, it means there is something absolutely wrong with your head.”
He questioned why Ghana was still heavily indebted, yet Ghanaians walked on gold.
Nana Nketia called for the judicious use of Africa’s natural resources for the benefit of its people.