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Africa’s Digital Generation Gap

For evidence that Africa's aged rulers are increasingly out of touch with the continent's booming youth population, look no further than the digital economy. Rather than cultivating a sector that could help to address Africa's pressing need for new jobs, African governments are stifling it with new taxes and regulations.

LONDON – Africa is the youngest place in the world. But because African heads of state tend to be older – with an average age of 62 – they are out of touch with African youth. At an event in London last April, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari suggested that young Nigerians were lazy and looking for government handouts, provoking a social-media backlash (hashtag: #LazyNigerianYouths) by young Nigerians who listed all of their productive pursuits.

For its part, the Nigerian mobile lending platform OneFi showcased some of its enterprising customers. With a small loan, one young woman was able to buy inventory for a wholesale plantain chip business; another young entrepreneur was able to build a poultry house that could hold 1,000 chickens.

African tech startups like OneFi largely owe their existence to the expansion of mobile Internet across the continent. With a projected smartphone user base of 725 million by 2020, and Internet access expected to grow by 130% in the next six years, Africa’s digital economy could create millions of jobs for young Africans.