Driving Job Creation for Africa’s Youth: 8 Mentors to Watch

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Meet the inspirational young leaders who are helping reduce Africa’s youth unemployment as part of the African Development Bank’s Presidential Youth Advisory Group…

With a youth population bigger than any other continent’s, Africa has a huge asset and a strong competitive advantage. Equipped with education, skills and jobs, its youth stand to be the most important driver of economic growth in Africa and the world.

To harness some of that potential, the African Development Bank launched, in 2017, the 8-member Presidential Youth Advisory Group (PYAG), a unique council made up of highly talented young Africans advising the Bank on youth initiatives across all Bank activities.

The group also provides insights and innovative solutions for creating jobs for Africa’s youth. Their individual contributions have had a major impact in their respective countries and fields.  Collectively, their efforts stand to transform the trajectory of Africa’s youth.

Commenting on PYAG and the group’s achievements, Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said: “When I think of the potential of this powerful group of young, brilliant minds who are united in their ambition to change the fate of Africa’s youth, I am inspired. These are young leaders who are willing to put themselves out there, have tough conversations, and deliver bold and innovative solutions to transform new generations. At the Bank, we fully embrace their efforts to spread change, and we continue to actively foster the best they have to offer.”

From financial services and agriculture to technology and writing, the PYAG represents cutting-edge youth leadership in Africa to watch in 2019 and beyond, serving as an inspiration and catalyst to bridging the gap between youth and employment for the future.

Group Chair Ashish J. Thakkar, CEO of Mara Corporation

Ashish is a serial entrepreneur passionate about enabling, empowering and inspiring young male and female entrepreneurs. Consequently, in 2009, he founded Mara Foundation to foster and support emerging entrepreneurs through mentorship and venture philanthropy. He also founded Mara Pones, the African-made Mara mobile phone, manufactured on the continent. Mara Phones is now available on the global market.  He is the author of The Lion Awakes: Adventures in Africa’s Economic Miracle. In 2012, Ashish was appointed a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in recognition of his success and leadership in driving social and economic change in Africa. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Africa and the Chair of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurship Council (GEC).

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Mamadou Touré, Founder and CEO of Africa 2.0/Ubuntu Capital and Ubuntu Coin

Mamadou started his first NGO at the age of 19, (Afrique Tandem) mobilizing more than 100 African students across Europe to enable skills and knowledge transfer into the continent through concrete uplifting projects and linkages programmes.  In 2014, Mamadou was considered by Forbes Magazine as one of the Top 10 Most Powerful Men in Africa. In 2015 in Davos, he received a distinction as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He is also Founder and Chairman of Africa 2.0 Foundation, an initiative-driven advocacy group that brings together emerging leaders representing African countries and the Diaspora, who share a common vision of the continent’s future.

Vanessa Moungar, Director for the Gender, Women, and Civil Society Department, African Development Bank

Vanessa is an “intrapreneur” determined to leverage regional and global platforms to accelerate Africa’s transformation. She leads the AfDB’s work on gender equality and women empowerment, as well as its engagement with civil society organizations. She currently sits on French President Emmanuel Macron’s Presidential Council for Africa as well as the G7 Gender Equality Council. She was recognized as one of the 100 most influential Africans by the New African Magazine (2017), and was featured on the Choiseul Africa 100 list (2018). She holds degrees from INSEEC Paris and Harvard University, and was a World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellow (in partnerships with Columbia University, Wharton School of Business, China Europe International Business School, London Business School, and INSEAD).

Jeremy Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Andela

Jeremy Johnson is the CEO and co-founder of Andela, a company founded on the idea that brilliance is evenly distributed. With that as their backbone, they’ve built a network of technology leaders dedicated to advancing human potential. Andela’s core function is helping companies build high-performing engineering teams by investing in Africa’s most talented software developers. Based in, Kenya, Nigeria Rwanda and Uganda, Andela developers are already working as full-time engineers with companies that range from industry leaders like Viacom to venture-backed start-ups like Gusto and SeatGeek. Jeremy was named “30 Under 30” by Inc. Magazine in 2012 and Forbes in 2013 and 2014. Jeremy serves on the board of the Young Entrepreneur Council and the education non-profit PENCIL and co-authored a book for the World Economic Forum: ‘Education & Skills 2.0: New Targets & Innovative Approaches’.

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Clarisse Iribagiza, CEO and Co-founder of DMM.HeHe

Clarisse Iribagiza is the CEO and Co-founder of DMM.HeHe (formally HeHe Labs) a leading technology company that develops innovative technologies that enable businesses to optimize their operations and reach more customers anywhere and on the go. DMM.HeHe serves over 2 million users across Africa, enabling the business to offer their products and services on-demand and guaranteeing great customer experience to the last-mile. She founded her business in 2010 at the age of 22 as a junior at University of Rwanda’s College of Science where she was pursuing a BSC in Computer Engineering. This was after a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) incubation program where she was able to connect the dots between what she was learning in school and how she could immediately apply it in the real world.  Clarisse has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the African Leadership University School of Business.

Ada Osakwe, CEO of Agrolay Ventures

Ada is an award-winning food entrepreneur and investor. She was also a lead in the launch of the Youth Employment in Agriculture Program (YEAP) that supported the rise of a new cadre of food-entrepreneurs in Nigeria through training, mentorship and financing. Ada is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and a Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow. In 2016, she was Entrepreneur of the Year and featured on Choiseul 100 Africa list consecutively from 2016 to 2018. She received the ‘Achiever in Agriculture’ Award and was on the 2014 Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa list. She is also a mentor on the Future Global Leaders Fellowship.

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Yana Kakar, Global Managing Partner of Dalberg Advisors

Yana Kakar is the Global Managing Partner of Dalberg Advisors, an impact-driven firm with offices in over 23 countries worldwide that provides strategy, investment, policy, research, data analytics and design services to clients across the public, private and philanthropic sectors. With roughly half of the global offices in Africa, and most staff born and raised on the continent, Dalberg is the continent’s leading top-tier strategy advisory firm. Yana specializes in public and private investment in Africa and has led the structuring of funds and facilities in the sectors of energy, agriculture, health, infrastructure and technology, with an explicit mandate of youth and gender inclusion. Yana has also overseen Dalberg teams in developing several of the AfDB President’s High 5 strategies, including the Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy that will create 25 million jobs and impact 50 million youth over the next decade. She holds a BA from McGill University and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Uzodinma Iweala, CEO of The Africa Center in New York.

Uzodinma Iweala is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and medical doctor. He is the CEO of The Africa Center in New York, promoting a new narrative about Africa and its diaspora through a focus on culture, policy and business. He is the author of three books: Beasts of No Nation (2005), a novel also adapted into a major motion picture; Our Kind of People (2012), a non-fiction account of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria; and Speak No Evil (2018), a novel about coming-of-age in Washington, D.C. His books have been mentioned by Time Magazine, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Times and Rolling Stone. ‘Uzodinma Iweala completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard University and he earned a medical degree at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.’

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