Project Management Institute (PMI), the leading professional organisation for project management and the authority for a growing global community of millions of project professionals, recently concluded its 8th Annual Conference with a commitment to engage youth successfully in all aspects of their professional growth. The conference shed light on the rising leaders – the youth, who hold the promise of transforming the continent and creating the Africa We Want.

According to the African Development Bank, Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and will reach 850 million youth by 2050, and by 2063, young people will constitute half of the 2 billion working-age population. Africa will remain the world’s youngest region, with a median age of 25 years.

George Asamani, MD, Sub Saharan Africa, PMI, says,” The youth represent a significant human resource that can’t be ignored. Their energy, creativity, and potential can be harnessed for sustainable development, including addressing climate change. To empower African youth to be effective changemakers, investments should be made in education, capacity building, and training in project management”

The three-day conference consisted of keynote addresses, plenary sessions, breakout rooms, roundtables and think tanks to brainstorm the emerging trends in the project management space. The panelists and attendees shared their personal experiences and tips that helped them in their journey.

The conference heard that the shortage of certified project managers in the region is a significant concern with far-reaching implications for the region’s development and progress. Many of Africa’s development initiatives, such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and projects funded by institutions like the African Development Bank, World Bank, etc. are critical for the continent’s socio-economic growth and sustainability.

These initiatives often involve complex, long-term projects that require effective project management for successful implementation and cannot be allowed to fail. According to Asamani, the best way to accelerate capacity building is through partnerships with bodies that actually need project management talents and are driving the growth of the continent. That includes governments and multilateral organisations.

Speaking at the conference, Hon Ezekiel Gachugu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education said, “Kenya’s potential to shine on the global stage is undeniable, and the pursuit of excellence in project delivery is central to this ambition. It is heartening to know that efforts are being made to promote professional involvement and best practices in project delivery in Kenya. This commitment will undoubtedly amplify the impact of projects across sectors, aligning with the overarching vision of the economic transformation agenda in agriculture, SMEs, housing and settlement, healthcare, digital, and creative economy.”

In addition to the three-day event, a full-day PMI Africa Conference Youth Edition was also hosted at the University of Nairobi.

“Providing a platform for the youth to express their views demonstrates our commitment to youth engagement and empowerment. The youthful panel and lineup of speakers added to the student’s knowledge and skills and afforded them the opportunity to network.,” adds Asamani.

Agenda 2063 is a long-term development framework for Africa, and involving youth in its strategy, ideation, and decision-making processes is crucial. Young people are not just beneficiaries but active stakeholders in the continent’s future, and their involvement can help ensure that the agenda reflects their needs and aspirations.

Without a sufficient pool of qualified project managers to support infrastructure development, public-private partnerships, energy, and advances in Artificial Intelligence and digital transformation, African countries may face a competitive disadvantage in attracting investment and financing for development projects.

“To address this shortage, countries and organisations should invest in building the capacity of project managers through education, training, and certification programs. This includes supporting universities and institutions that offer project management courses and promoting continuous professional development for project management practitioners,” adds Asamani.

“It’s an extraordinary time to be a young person in Africa. Geographical boundaries no longer define our possibilities. This means that anyone in the world can start on an equal footing. The task for the youth is to recognise the opportunities that exist now. This is what makes project management an exceptionally promising career choice to make.”

In an exciting announcement, PMI Africa Conference 2024 is set to stay in East Africa and will be hosted together with the PMI Rwanda Chapter in Kigali, Rwanda. The 2023 edition in Kenya attracted just under 900 delegates and students.

Caption: PMI Rwanda Chapter receiving the ceremonial flag as the host of 2024 PMI Africa Conference