For the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is expected to create a market of 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion, the participation of about 65 percent of the continent’s population under 35 years is paramount. ALSO READ: How African youth can propel the success of AfCFTA This imperative was underscored at the inaugural AfCFTA Youth Symposium themed “Igniting the Future for Youth in Trade,” held from August 21 to 23 in Zambia. The symposium brought together young leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss strategies for harnessing AfCFTA's potential. It is anticipated that by 2035, there will be $7 trillion worth of opportunities for SMEs and young entrepreneurs to export across the African market's regions. However, the youth have been slow to seize these opportunities. Prudence Sebahizi, Director of Institutional Matters and Programmes Coordination, highlighted six challenges impeding African youth from leveraging the continental trade agreement and proposed solutions. Unemployment and Underemployment The labor market is witnessing a rising unemployment rate due to an influx of human capital competing for limited job opportunities. Addressing this issue entails encouraging young people to invest and become entrepreneurs, thereby creating jobs for themselves and their peers. Diversification of Economies Africa primarily exports raw materials and unprocessed primary commodities, missing the opportunity to create employment through value addition. Industrialization is key to job creation, and Africa should strive to produce finished goods rather than exporting raw materials. Importing items that can be produced domestically amounts to exporting jobs to other regions. ALSO READ: Youth urged to exploit intra-Africa trade opportunities Skills Development and Capacity Building Sebahizi emphasized that education is an ongoing process, especially in a rapidly changing technological landscape. Young people must understand the importance of continuous learning to remain relevant in the job market. Inclusivity Despite the trend toward urbanization, most of Africa's population resides in rural areas, which hold significant economic potential. Achieving inclusivity means ensuring that everyone, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status, has the opportunity to participate in economic activities. Technology and Infrastructure Development To compete in the global economy, Africa needs to leapfrog and catch up with the rest of the world in terms of technology adoption. This requires fully utilizing available infrastructure resources to support economic growth and innovation. The AfCFTA presents immense opportunities for Africa's youth, but addressing these challenges is essential for their meaningful participation in the continent's economic transformation. Through concerted efforts and strategic investments, African youth can play a pivotal role in driving the success of AfCFTA.