Youth Untapped Asset Fuels Ethiopia's Sustainable Economic Growth

Apr 1 , 2023
By Fisseha Mekuria (PhD)

The winds of change are blowing in Ethiopia, carrying with them the hopes and dreams of a new generation eager to shape the future of their country and the African continent. We must focus on nurturing and supporting young innovators in science and technology to harness this potential, argues Fisseha Mekuria, a professor at the faculty of Technology & Society, Malmö University, Sweden. He may be reached at

Recent events in Addis Abeba, where students protested, and the Bahir Dar Institute of Technology's Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (BITEC) hosted the international conference on ICT for the development of Africa, highlighted the importance of supporting youth-led initiatives in science and technology. As a concerned citizen living in the diaspora, I am compelled to rally support for these innovation centres, which cultivate and empower the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

We must ask ourselves whether we should invest more in encouraging and enabling our young people to become innovators and creative designers.

Should we focus on fostering entrepreneurial skills, creativity, mentorship, and financial support for the emerging generation? Or should we stand by while misguided forces weaponize the talents of the youth, turning them against their own communities?

For emerging economies in Africa and Asia, investing in science and technological innovation is a beacon of hope for sustainable development and for creating a digital society. Equipping young talent with the necessary tools and financial support can lead to a brighter future and contribute to industrial development in these countries. The establishment of the Science Museum in Addis Abeba should serve as a testament to this belief. It is a call to action for prioritizing education, research, and innovation in science and technology.

The young innovators at BITEC inspire with their passion for addressing societal issues through science and technology. Their work demonstrates the potential for a sustainable Ethiopia and inclusive socio-economic development. One must wonder how often such innovation centres make headlines or are visited by politicians and decision-makers in Ethiopia and across Africa.

We must strive to support and encourage these innovation centres, helping them develop their products into viable startups and industries capable of creating jobs for future generations and inspiring a culture of innovation and creativity. We also hope that decision-makers, educational institutions, and leaders empower and support young people in pursuing science and technology skills to foster continuous innovation and entrepreneurship.

Ethiopia, Africa, and the world's future depend on enhancing young generations' skills in science and technology. Targeted investment in innovation and entrepreneurship centres can address the urgent issue of youth unemployment in Africa, potentially giving rise to industries based on local innovations.

By supporting such initiatives, we can prevent the exodus of talented scientists, engineers, designers, and creative artists, ensuring they remain in their home countries to contribute to sustainable economic development. By doing so, we pave the way for a sustainable and robust digital economy and address the pressing challenge of youth unemployment that afflicts many African countries.

It should be our collective responsibility to invest in and support young innovators. Using their innovative products and services as a springboard for success must be a positive first step. Both public and private institutions must commit their unwavering support to these educational and innovation centres.

Today's most pressing developmental challenge facing Africa is youth unemployment and a lack of entrepreneurship. Addressing this challenge should be prioritized within United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) framework. I urge for the implementation of a plan similar to the Marshal Plan.

Now is the time to unleash Africa's young population's innovation and entrepreneurial potential through science and technology. History shows that people and countries can effectively unite to address global challenges. Ethiopia and Africa can carve an authentic and sustainable legacy if we dedicate ourselves to educating our youth in science and technology innovation, ensuring a brighter future for all.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 01,2023 [ VOL 23 , NO 1196]

Fisseha Mekuria (PhD) (, chief research scientist at the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research based in South Africa. He is the recipient of the 2020 Innovation Excellence Award by the National Science & Technology Forum, NSTF-2020, South Africa. The comments expressed here are only those of the author.

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