Building the future together: youth digitalize Africa

Building the future together: youth digitalize Africa

The discussion was assisted by Director of the Center for Global IT-Cooperation, Vadim Glushchenko, Deputy Executive Director of Innopraktika, Anastasia Pavlenko, Data Processing Specialist of the Gombe State Ministry of Water Resources, Auwal Abubakar Usman (Nigeria), Digital Literacy and Education Specialist of the Teach Project Women Initiative, Sonia Davarga (Nigeria), CEO and Founder of Laska Technologies Ltd.,Lasford Kalonde (Zambia). The session was moderated by Roman Chukov, Chair of the Board of the Russian Center for the International Promotion.

Africa is a rapidly developing continent that is predicted to have a fantastic economic growth in the next few decades. All thanks to a rapid demographic growth as well, because according to the most decent forecasts, about 40% of the global population will live on the African continent by 2100 (now 18%). And most of them will be under 25 years old, although, presently Africa is the youngest continent on the planet. However, at the same time, it has one of the lowest indicators for Internet connection (40%). How to build a prosperous IT industry for the youth and bridge the digital gap? And how can Russia help with this problem?

Vadim Glushchenko spoke about the concept of a sustainable digital dialogue with the countries of the Global South. “Russia today is the holder of a competitive product: digital transformation in public administration. We are in a top 10 countries by this indicator, so we would like to make the digitalization of public administration a product, “in a package solution” for export, particularly to African countries. According to the study this region is distinguished by a currently unique combination of economic and social potential - a young, growing population with a high need for digital services, while the level of digitalization in Africa is on average lower than in the rest of the world,” he marked.

Africa is now actively involved in global competition for high-tech personnel and teams, and Russia, besides staff-training programs, can offer to the continent its assistance in building national digital sovereignty through international digital cooperation. Not through adjustment to imposed standards (USA, Europe or China), but through building own African ecosystems. 

Anastasia Pavlenko presented an educational program for transferring competencies in digital transformation of public administration to Africa. About 40 representatives of African state governing bodies authorized to develop and regulate digital public administration will take part in a training program, which is one of the first events organized for them in St. Petersburg in autumn. “Russian companies are ready to share experience and export their solutions for digital transformation in public administration. We also share our unique skills in protecting these services from cyber-attacks. Moreover, Russia did not focus on the knowledge of other countries, it generated its own solutions. Such experience transfer can help to preserve not only digital sovereignty, but also the overall sovereignty of African countries,” she said.

Sonia Davarga from Nigeria, who specializes in bridging the digital gap in her country, recalled that digital skills training for Africa is one of the most important challenges on the continent now. What do we mean by digital literacy? It means 5 areas: communication, collaboration, information and media literacy (how to search for information on the Internet), as well as an ability to use digital devices (from a printer to a telephone). Here we talk a lot about Russian assistance to Africa in this area, but there is one aspect that is not usually taken into account: all generated solutions must undergo some kind of check in terms of culture and socio-economic development. That is, we have to understand whether this or that decision needs to be adjusted to the local market and which aspects may not get accustomed specifically in this region,” Davarga concluded.

The Zambian experience proves that people better absorb knowledge that has been received directly from practitioners, so Lasford Kalonde brings together different entrepreneurs to tell the next generation about their experience in IT technology. He paid special attention to building exactly horizontal communication within African youth, as it has ideas, opportunities, competencies for digital development, but is lack of connectivity and forming partnerships. Thus, something grown within the community is more likely to survive and become a project. Another problem is that constant conversations and transfer of ideas come to nothing. That is why it is necessary to arrange the transfer of experience, which will help in terms of creating profitable IT projects. Further, he noted that Africa had its own resources, and it could be possible to build factories for the production of chips and computers there, but the main problem was investment. Such technologies, in his opinion, would help to connect Africa: as well as create and preserve technologies within the continent.

Summing up the session, moderator Roman Chukov marked that Africa had a huge potential in the development of digital technologies. The most essential thing is to steer young generation on the right course, as well as to involve as many parties as possible in solving the problem of bridging the digital gap.