A digital economy is an economy based on digital technologies. This is an economy based on an internet (New Economy) with main components of e-business infrastructure which includes hardware, software, telecoms, networks, and human capital; e-business which includes the process of conducting business using the computer-mediated networks; and r-commerce which involves a transfer of goods from a place to another online. By 2050, the African population is estimated to be at 1.3 billion people; of which 15 – 20 million will constitute well-educated youth. The youth will be either employed, underemployed or unemployed. The continent will face a challenge of creating jobs to such young African or else, the continent will remain at the threat of political instability in the coming years. In order to enhance the skills needed to prepare the youth for the digital economy and future, the following need to be undertaken.
Africa needs a multi-stakeholder approach to create an enabling environment where the youth can live and drive digital economic trends. To achieve this, there is a need for the continent to invest in networking or connectivity, research, and design, and to improve and provide quality comprehensive education to all without leaving anyone behind. This calls for professional training in specific areas of the digital economy such as coding, artificial intelligence, robotics, and cybersecurity. This approach is based on the fact that the Africa’s youth is trailing behind the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where labor market, growth, and development need new occupations, ways of organizing official works and coordination, new skills for new jobs and new tools/facilities to help people do their jobs.
The digital economy has got new technological opportunities which are based on the internet. Aware of fragile nature of African states where a political crisis is imminent, there is a need to actively encourage innovation, creativity, and exploration in education since institutionalized thinking in current education system hinders new teaching methods which are critical in imparting digital skills and the ability to learn them. In such a situation, portable classrooms need to be embraced rather than the current fixed classes. The youth need skills to new technology, access to portable tablets/device-based education and thus making mobile digital schools rather than still classes which characterize formal education system.
Besides, African youth need to be familiar with shared technological drivers and create some homestay areas for sharing knowledge with others, e-commerce logistics, e-commerce sellers and small-scale e-commerce producers. This will lead to improved connectivity and business training skills to enable students and youth to increase their knowledge through business training. Build entry-level skills, basic digital skills that create access points to employment opportunities since traditional jobs increasingly use digital technology in their daily operations with information and communications technology evolution. At a national level, developing and implementing comprehensive national digital skill strategies and policies with shared information at the international level need to be included. This will promote an enabling environment for youth employment and entrepreneurship in the digital economy.
Daniel Athior Atem Manyuon, a South Sudan national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.