They are under 40 and take the business in hand - Jeune Afrique

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In politics or in sport, in a consulting firm or in finance, they have made daring and ambition the driving forces of their career. Portraits of these men and women who, from Niamey to Abidjan, have decided not to wait for a place to be made for them.

In Africa, seniors are formidable. We praise their wisdom, but it is their equals who often shine. And when they hold the reins, it's hard to let them go. In governments, at the very top of the protocol order, being 60 years old or so is a minimum. Romuald Wadagni, Minister of State for Finance in Benin, 45 years old, and Antoine Diome, Minister of the Interior of Senegal, 47 years old, are exceptional figures in the matter, just like the Malian colonel Assimi Goïta, 38, who by taking the Koulouba palace panzer way is participating in his own way in the renewal of the ruling class.

“Patient as we have been patient”, seem to say as a whole the West African elites to the youth. Because in companies, apart from multinationals, which impose age limits on their executives, the regime is the same. The heirs do not have more privilege in this matter and very often have to wait for the death of their father, or almost, to finally manage the family affairs.

Demographic bomb

Yet in the streets, the youth is obvious. She is everywhere. One in two West Africans is under the age of 18 and most will live on small, poorly paid jobs, dreaming in front of Instagram of the Champions League and the star system. Less than 5% of students who entered primary school continue their studies after leaving the baccalaureate and millions of formal jobs are missing every year to integrate the active people entering the labor market. Politicians and economic decision-makers must do much more to ensure that the continent does not turn into a demographic bomb.

One in two West Africans is under the age of 18 and most will live on small, poorly paid jobs

Increase education budgets, facilitate access to vocational and continuing training, stimulate business creation, but also change attitudes and share responsibilities. Rather than confine all these "little ones" to thankless tasks, give them the shortcut, so that they can, more than today, make their contribution to the takeoff of the continent.

A mental revolution, which involves the promotion of new models. In the world of business, education, politics, there are a number of them, despite all the obstacles, to break the glass ceiling and take matters into their own hands before the age of 40. Inspiring courses for young and old alike.

• Issouf Nikiema, restless deputy-mayor of Komsilga

Portrait of Issouf Nikiema © DR

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