Aggressive digitalisation surest way of solving Africa’s unemployment crisis
African ministers have for the umpteenth time underscored the need to pursue an aggressive digitalisation strategy as it’s the surest of solving the continent’s rising unemployment challenges.
The African Development bank reports that while 10 million to 12 million youth enter the workforce in Africa each year, only 3 million formal jobs are created annually.
Speaking in a joint press conference at the end of the 2nd General Assembly of the Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the ministers – including Ursula Owusu Ekuful, Ghana’s Communications and Digitalisation Minister; Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim, Nigeria’s Communications and Digital Economy Minister; and Osman Bar, Gambia’s Communications and Digital Economy – argued forcefully for heightened collaboration in attracting and fostering investments aimed at transforming the continent through digitalisation.
The DCO is a global multilateral organisation founded in November 2020 with the aim of enabling digital prosperity for all by accelerating inclusive growth of the digital economy.
It brings together the Ministries of Communications and IT from 13 nations – Bahrain, Cyprus, Djibouti, Ghana, Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Oman, Nigeria, Rwanda, Morocco and Saudi Arabia -which collectively represent nearly US$2trillion in GDP and a market of nearly 600 million people, more than 70% of whom are under the age of 35.
Speaking during the press conference, Ghana’s Communications and Digitalisation Minister, Ursula Owusu Ekuful, said digitalisation represents a major opportunity for countries in Africa to create jobs for their citizens, boost growth, reduce poverty and maximise potential successes of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
For her, digitalisation is the only way to usher-in the kind of deep reforms necessary to enhance long-term growth for African countries at a time the world is reeling under a debilitating economic crisis as a result of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“For the continental free trade area to succeed, we need to utilise digital technologies. There’s no other way when you look at the infrastructural challenges we have with movement of goods and persons on the continent,” the Ghanaian minister said. “There’s a need, therefore, to put in place robust digital platforms and infrastructure. It’s incumbent on all of us to harmonise our policies together to make the continental free trade area a reality,” she added.
“We share the belief that digital technology, digital skills provide a pathway toward creating sustainable jobs for the continent,” Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful further stressed.
Nigeria’s Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim, said investing in digital technologies will transform the continent’s economy from a being consuming one to a manufacturing economy.
Responding to a question from the Business and Financial Times (B&FT), Professor Ibrahim said it’s necessary for Africa to harness its talents and put its house in order by 2030 in order to move away from being a natural resource-based economy.
“Today, it’s no more about resource-based economies; it’s about knowledge-based economies which depend on talents and innovations and entrepreneurship. And to achieve this, we need to be proactive, put our house in order and change our economy from resource-based to knowledge-based, and change the equation from being a consuming to a producing and manufacturing continent – and by doing that we will be very successful,” he said.
On his part, Osman Bar – Gambia’s Communications and Digital Economy Minister, called for the necessary political will, strategic collaborations to put together the digital infrastructure for Africa’s transformation.
“There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from the experiences of others, incorporate that into our own arrangements and create the environment and ecosystem which makes it possible to digitalise our economies,” he said, during the post-DCO 2nd General Assembly press conference.
The DCO is focused on empowering youth, women and entrepreneurs, leveraging the digital economy’s accelerative power and leapfrogging with innovation to drive economic growth and increase social prosperity. Through cooperation, dialogue and the creation of mutually advantageous cross-border legislation, it seeks to establish within its member-nations the optimal infrastructure and policies for rapid creation of inclusive and equitable digital economies, within which all people, businesses and societies can innovate and thrive.
The DCO’s key initiatives include programmes to enhance cross-border data flows, promote market expansion for SMEs, empower digital entrepreneurs and advance digital inclusion among women, youth and other under-represented populations.