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Ahonsi Unuigbe

As the sun rises over the bustling city of Lagos, a new day begins for a generation of young Africans who are reshaping the future of our continent. It's a renaissance silently brewing, and the world is only beginning to glimpse its profound impact. Influenced by Western values and driven by the unique African entrepreneurial spirit, these dynamic individuals propel Nigeria into the global spotlight as a hub for innovation and business. This transformation extends beyond art, music, and entertainment; it permeates every corner of society and the economy. As a result, new opportunities emerge, akin to the blossoming of a hidden treasure chest.

But how did we get here?

Africa remains the last frontier in the fight against extreme poverty. As recently as 2019, one in three Africans lived below the global poverty line. That startling figure has been rapidly declining. Current estimates project that by 2030, Africa will reduce the number of impoverished citizens by 45 million, and moderate poverty will decrease from 33.5 percent to 24 percent. But this shift was not from global charity; it was a shift in mindset. If we realize our potential, it will be from growth and job creation, not from global aid distribution.

The ongoing generational shift within Africa is more than just a change of faces. It represents an evolution of values, principles, and aspirations. Young Africans harness the power of globalization and connectivity to shape their destiny. Nigerian musicians are already changing pop culture, with artists like Burna Boy, Wizkid, and others nabbing multiple Grammy nominations and collaborating with stars like Beyonce and Ed Sheeran. The same technologies that have democratized access to information and knowledge are also democratizing opportunities and unleashing the untapped potential of a new generation, my generation.

One such area for opportunity that has emerged as one of the fastest-growing regions globally, offering an abundance of prospects, is the energy industry. International oil companies have dominated Africa for over six decades due to the large capital investment requirements. But in recent years, driven by local policies that focus on creating wealth from within our borders, African business leaders have been investing and starting up in oil, gas, and renewables.

While the world is on the path towards cleaner energy sources, fossil fuels remain vital to maintain access to electricity, and Africa is blessed with substantial reserves. Today, the continent provides the world with nearly 10 percent of its oil and gas needs – with plenty of potential to deliver more.

Another sector that exemplifies this transformation is the technology industry. Nigeria's business capital - Lagos, often called the "Silicon Valley of Africa," has witnessed the rise of tech-savvy entrepreneurs disrupting traditional industries and pioneering new solutions to local and global challenges. The financial technology sector is a prime example. Nigerian companies are making waves with innovative payment solutions, mobile banking, and peer-to-peer lending platforms. These technologies address local financial inclusion issues and gain recognition globally. Nigeria produces five of the seven entities that have attained 'unicorn status,' with a combined valuation of over $7 billion.

These values propelled me to start my own company, Petralon Energy. I did it with primarily African investors, an African board, and African staff. This is not about a pro-black message; it's about how the world is evolving for the better, and Africa is where a world of potential is just starting to fulfill its promise.

With all that said, foreign investments, particularly from the West, still often need to catch up to the African continent, leaving Africa with plenty of untapped opportunities. It's essential to recognize that Africa, with its abundant natural resources and dynamic and youthful population, is a treasure trove of opportunities that the world has yet to discover fully.

As we enter 2024, it is time for the world to recognize that Africa and rapidly growing markets such as Nigeria are not only a land of challenges but a land of immense potential. The rest of the world can no longer afford to overlook the prospects that Africa presents. Our continent is no longer the world's best-kept secret; it is the future.

Ahonsi is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Petralon Energy. Aside from his role at the company and his other business interests, he has also been appointed Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Exchange, the youngest chairman in the history of the Exchange. Before he founded Petralon, Ahonsi was First Hydrocarbon Nigeria's founding executive, serving as Chief Financial Officer & Executive Director.