Sustainable development in Africa via innovative ideas

With a vibrant population and abundant natural resources, Africa is still on the lowest rung of development among the continents. This discourse charts a course of sustainable development for the continent

Africa, the second largest continent, has a rich history. It is home to some of the oldest human civilisations, with over 1.3bn people, according to recent statistics.

A diverse continent, with variety of cultures, languages and religions, Africa also has a vast range of ecosystems, from the Sahara Desert to the rainforests. Its diversity comes with abundant resources, both natural and human.

Fifty-four countries call the continent home. However, most part of the continent is underdeveloped. So many factors contribute to its underdevelopment. One might say that Africans are hungry in a land of abundance. This is true, for the most part. What is so striking about the African condition is its lack of development, despite its young, vibrant population and abundant natural resources. 

Africa is home to 30 per cent of the world’s mineral assets, eight per cent of the world’s natural gas and 12 per cent of the world’s oil reserves. The continent has over 40 per cent of the world’s gold and up to 90 per cent of its chromium and platinum. It hosts the largest reserves of cobalt, diamond, platinum and uranium in the world.

However, according to the World Bank, Africa is the poorest region in the world, with over 41 per cent of its population living below the poverty line. Poverty is caused by poor infrastructure, conflict, corruption, lack of access to education and healthcare, among others.

Politicians as clogs

The political leaders have deliberately behaved like the proverbial ostrich; putting the head in the sand, and the rump outside. The decline of an entire continent confounds one’s preconceptions about human advancement. 

Speaking at the launch of Big Ideas Platform in Abuja, recently, National Vice Chairman of All Progressives Congress, North West Nigeria, Dr Salihu Lukman, said most of the challenges bedevilling the country are because political parties have not lived up to expectations.

The ruling party chieftain noted that since 1999, the country has not been lucky to have a clearly functional political party to deliver dividends of democracy to the people.

Lukman added that rather than invest in political parties, the politicians only see the parties as means to produce candidates for elections.

“Almost as a generation, we have focused more, at least since 1999, in candidates for elections, thinking that the most important thing in politics is to produce candidates, while imagining that once that is addressed, we will likely produce good leaders. That has, in turn, produced a lot of frustration.

“The big missing element is that, over time, we have failed to invest in our political parties. As it is today, we do not have any clearly functional party running its affairs democratically, in a way that citizens can access it, and when they become members, they can explore the possibility of emerging as candidates,” he stated.

Further, the continent has the lowest literacy rate in the world, and access to quality education is still a major problem for many Africans. This lack of education is a major barrier to economic development and social progress. The challenges remain substantial: more people are poor today than in the 1990s. Two in five adults are still illiterate, and violence is on the rise in the region.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development aims at transforming the world into an idealistic state of peace and economic prosperity. But most of the world’s low-income countries have been struggling to achieve even a single goal, including the two key targets: eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

Young continent 

Sadly, almost all low-income countries are found in Africa, which boosts a very large youth population.

Still at the Big Ideas launch, former World Bank Vice President, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, said with such enormous resources and youthful population, there is no excuse for Africans to be wallowing in abject poverty. So, she urged governments in the region to invest in youths and women.

“I have often said that, for Nigeria, there are three game-changers, which have been in great exhibition today. One is the young people. Africa’s mean age, or median age is about 18.6 years, compared to global average of more than 40. What that means is that this is the youngest continent.

“Africa’s young people are already showing the world that they can compete globally, despite some of the challenges that hold them back due to poor governance. If they find their feet, they can even surpass the ideas others put on the table. So, Africa’s young people have economically proven to be game-changers.”


Innovation is the process of creating new ideas or products that have the potential to improve people’s lives. It is a key driver of economic growth, and can play a significant role in helping Africa achieve its development goals. For example, innovation can be used to develop new agricultural technologies that can help farmers to produce more food. This can help to alleviate poverty and boost food insecurity.

She said, “The third factor is technology. Technology has been Africa’s most insignificant revolution. We did not participate in the Agrarian Revolution and we were not part of the Industrial Revolution. We were not really that much part of the early days of the Knowledge Revolution, but the Information and Communication Technology Revolution has been our first participation, and not even as a major producer of the ideas, but just a consumer.

“Yet, we have begun to learn how to participate in innovations within it. So, even if you are the most pessimistic person, you have absolutely no business leaving today’s programme without a boost of optimism, that with our young people and women, joined with the capacity that technology offers, we will definitely be the ones that will determine the 21st century.”

Also, the Executive Director of Women in Management, Business and Public Service, Hansatu Adegbite, stressed the need to have more women on the decision-making table, adding that “the cost of inequality is extremely high,” and Nigeria had been paying the cost for the longest time.

Innovative ideas birth more knowledge because knowledge is akin to innovation. An educated population will gradually imbibe good governance, and good governance enhances development.

Innovative ideas will foster the development of new African solutions to African problems, charting a course towards a stronger and more sustainable system that benefits all.

Way forward

There are many opportunities for innovation in Africa. The continent has a young and growing population, which means that there is a large pool of potential innovators. Innovation will launch new thinking and illuminate bold ideas that can enhance the quality of life in African communities.

With the right investment and support, innovation can play a significant role in helping Africa achieve its development goals. By promoting innovation, Africa can create a better future for its people and contribute to the global economy.

Additionally, sustainable Africa’s development is achievable, if Africans come together and amplify life-changing strategies to implement transformative ideas. Fortunately, some African organisations like the School of Politics, Policy and Governance have already taken steps in this direction. SPPG recently established the Big Ideas Platform, to facilitate the generation and sharing of fresh ideas, innovative solutions and implementation strategies aimed at addressing the continent’s challenges.

Last line

To sum it up, sustainable African development is attainable with effective implementation of innovative ideas.

By exploring innovative approaches, we can address the challenges Africa faces and propel the continent towards a future of sustainable growth, elective governance and inclusive development.

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