From education to startup support, let's get ready for the digital economy!

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This digital age is not a temporary phenomenon or a trend that will vanish in a matter of time. It is the platform that brings the role players of the economic system together, creating what is known as the digital economy.

The digital economy has changed the nature of work. Waking up at 6 am, finishing your work at 3 pm is not the only option anymore. Your office could be your PC, your bed, or your favorite co-working space. Thanks to entrepreneurship and Gig economy, they both play a vital role in shaping the experience of digital economy. As 35% of the world’s internet users are African, we can easily spot an opportunity for engaging with the world through digital platforms. On a bright note, many of Africa’s youth are moving toward self-employment either as entrepreneurs or freelancers. But how can we enhance the skills of these young women and men to make them capable of adapting with the needs of the digital economy of the future world?

Millennials are digital natives. We all grew up in the age of digital technology. But unfortunately, young people in Africa did not get this opportunity equally. We have some catching up to do, so to make sure that we are ready for the future of work, we need to focus on information and communications technology (ICT) literacy among women and children in primary school. ICT literacy will give women, especially in rural areas, a chance to join the virtual labor market. For example, many of today’s women in Sudan are using social media to exhibit their products. These women saw social media as a platform to sell their products because of the challenges they would face due to cultural and social constraints.  

In addition, for young people to join the digital economy we should increase the investment opportunities for digital startups. I believe young entrepreneurs should have the understanding of how to mobilize global investments to run their digital startups. For that, Venture capitals and angel investors should focus on working with young entrepreneurs and encourage them to make use of the digital economy era.

On the other hand, I know that in many African countries such as Sudan, understanding of business doing regulations in general is weak for new ventures. Entrepreneurs perceive existing policies and regulations as generalized, unknown to many, and could be vague in some cases. The regulations in place constitute an obstacle for new business due to high taxation and the necessity of interacting with the governmental offices at all stages of development. In considering public policy reformation for businesses, there should be a focus on easing the procedures and have specific regulations to support and encourage young people to contribute to the digital economy era.

Above all young people should be well informed and aware of the opportunities and challenges that will occur during the digital economy of the future, for them to consider and work on solving from an early stage.

Moneera Yassien, a Sudanese national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.

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