Nigerian wins AU’s Youth Essay Contest on Industrialization, Innovation

ADDIS ABABA – Kingsley Job Obasi, a 24-year-old Nigerian, has won the African Union Youth Essay Contest on Industrialization and Innovation in the continent, the AU announced on Wednesday.

Kingsley wins the Contest for his essay, titled ‘Manufacturing: The Key to Economic Prosperity and Sustainable Development in Africa.’

The contest targeting young people between the ages of 15 to 35 was intended to harness the energy, creativity, and initiative of the African youth, in promoting a culture of sustainable development in Africa, with a particular focus on industrialization and innovation.

It gave the youth the opportunity to elaborate on the challenges, and recommendations on actions-oriented solutions that would influence the trajectory of industrialization on the continent.

Manufacturing “is like a key”

Kingsley was selected the winner from hundreds of applicants from across the continent who responded to the call to share proposals on how the elements of industrialization should be prioritized to enhance synergies with Africa’s development agenda.

In his essay, he articulates how manufacturing can unlock the economic prosperity of the African continent to create a sustainable future for its people.

He argues that when backed by policies that promote growth, manufacturing encourages economic development by providing opportunities for massive job creation, productivity growth, and innovation.

“When I say that manufacturing is key, I mean that it functions like a key—used to either open the economy or to kickstart the engine of development,” Kingsley says.

“Attempting to unlock your front door at home serves as a fantastic illustration. If you really needed to get in, you could try smashing the door in but that would not be the best course of action if you happened to have the key.

“I would argue, based on this reasoning, that manufacturing is central to Africa’s economic growth and sustainable development.”

A call for states’ active involvement

Coming in second place is a 20-year-old Ugandan Owachi Aaron. Owachi’s essay, ‘Hitting many birds with one stone: the kind of industrialization Africa needs’, provides an analytical look at fundamental issues on the slow pace of industrialization in Africa and makes recommendations on how the continent can “get its foot on the economic ladder” by focusing more on industrial and scientific needs, and research.

Owachi further concludes that with a call to the leaders to move commitments to actions.

“The key constraint on Africa’s industrialization has been political rather than purely technical or economic,” Owachi writes.

“Some States lack the capacity or will to produce a coherent and emphatic analysis and policy package for industrial sectors. The debate on African industrialization will end if there’s an active involvement of the State.”

‘Leverage indigenous knowledge’

South African Edwin Hlangwani was selected in third place, making the spot from his essay on “Scientific Lessons from Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart.’ A Reconciliation of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Reforming Africa.”

The 26-year-old refers to the relevance of African tradition and Indigenous knowledge. He, in part, observes that “even without the exact science, our ancestors were scientists.”

“They leveraged natural resources all around them to their benefit. That, in every sense of the word, is science,” Edwin continues. “Today, the intelligent application of scientific methods in traditional milieus is referred to as Indigenous knowledge systems.”

“To illustrate this point, it is best to explore one of nature’s intriguing gifts – fire. Fire’s first manifestation to humankind proved to be a revolutionary technology. Since the introduction of sophisticated sources of energy such as electricity, fire has been demoted to the ranks of primitive science.”

Other young persons whose essays made it to the top ten were Sulaiman Munda Bonnie (Sierra Leone), Chinoeso Samantha (Zimbabwe), Najikpan Ropou (Chad), Mouhamed Ben Omar (Senegal), Kudzai Chidzikwe (Zimbabwe), Thierno Malick Diallo (Senegal); Charles Mwanje (Uganda), and Ruby Achenyo Issac (Nigeria).

In a statement sent to EM News, the AU says the essays were judged on their strength, relevance, innovation, and use of academic sources by a panel of nine members of the AU Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification partner institutions.

The top three winners are invited to participate in the ongoing 17th Extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of the AU on Industrialization and Economic Diversification and Africa Industrialization Week in Niger’s capital Niamey.

The AU dedicated the continental platform to refocus the attention on accelerating Africa’s industrialization as a key to unlocking the continent’s productive capacities which also ensures the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Featured Image Caption: A worker checks readings on an energy management system, in South Africa. (Photo credit: National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa)