At this moment in history, no group of people has greater potential to positively influence the future of the world than Africans. Sub-Saharan Africa (“Africa”) has long been recognized for its natural resources and rich and diverse cultures and societies. Today, notwithstanding persistent challenges associated with poverty, conflict, and inequality, African legislators continue to strengthen the business environment and make some of the most remarkable advances in energy and climate change policies.
The continent remains the second fastest growing economic region, and the fastest growing in terms of both internet capacity and mobile usage. Moreover, Africa is becoming a thriving location for entrepreneurship. The region has the highest numbers of people involved in early-stage entrepreneurship activity and Africans report the highest perception of opportunity, accompanied by the lowest fear of failure.
Africa is the only region where the size of the youth population has not peaked and much of the projected growth in the global youth population between now and 2060 will take place on the continent. In addition, as mobility becomes easier, many of the continent’s cities are increasingly being recognized as attractive destinations for international immigrants, while at the same time, the population of Africans living abroad continues to grow.
Locally-grounded, globally-minded Africans
Interestingly, the combination of these developments and the broader influence of socio-cultural globalization have catalyzed an increase in the number of Africans who identify as global citizens. They are locally-grounded and globally-minded. They are as comfortable championing their own national heritage as they are discovering and navigating foreign cultures. Whether they live in “home” or “host” countries, they are as committed to the development of African nations as they are to the prosperity and wellbeing of the world at large. They are savvy both to the geopolitical, socioeconomic and environmental interconnectedness of the world, and to the relative marginalization of African voices in global governance and the global economy. To this point, they believe that it is to the world’s significant detriment and disadvantage for the ideas, insights and innovations of Africans not to feature more prominently and more inclusively in the great global discourse. Essentially, these are men and women who see it as their responsibility to contribute to the global society by amplifying their role, voice and impact as people of African descent, making a difference as global actors.
A subset of these locally-grounded, globally-minded Africans are mid-career professionals, entrepreneurs and artists, people between the ages of 35 and 54. The mid-career period, or “middlescence”, is a critical, but little understood stage in life. Middlescence is not dissimilar to adolescence in that it can be both a period of frustration, confusion and alienation, and also a time of self-discovery, new direction and fresh beginnings.
People in middlescence typically have over 10 or 15 years of work experience, many hold middle management or senior leadership positions, most are juggling the responsibilities of work, family and community, and some are well-traveled and have a reasonably substantive understanding of the world. This cumulative experience makes them potentially valuable assets to their associated companies, communities and countries.
Looking forward, I’m betting that there will be great dividends if we collectively invest in the leadership, innovation, and changemaking capacity of mid-career career Africans. In subsequent blogs, we’ll take about how to go about it.