In days gone by, progress was measured in terms of access to roads. Today, however, the concept of development is inconceivable without digital access. In an increasingly connected world that is unrelentingly zoned in to digital technology, the countries of the South are trying to bridge the digital divide with the North. So then, what are the possible solutions for equipping young Africans with the best skills that would help them prepare for the digital economy and for the jobs of tomorrow?
To answer this pressing issue of our time, our analysis will focus on the establishment of an online campus (e-campus), the creation of digital poles of excellence, and the setting up of ideas banks.
In his work “Ethics and the Internet in West Africa” Oumarou Tiemtoré writes: “If Africa misses the informatics train, the continent will not be able to get back on track.” Fortunately, Africa can respond to this complex situation by relying on her predominantly young population. But how can we ensure that our youth are equipped with the appropriate tools for dealing with the challenge of the century? Young Africans should be trained for the new jobs being created by digital technology: such training could be promoted by establishing an e-campus, with access to digital libraries that would position them at the cutting edge of technology. They could be used to help youth acquire the necessary skills to initiate startups and, in so doing, participate in wealth creation and play their role in the country’s development.
Another option is to create digital poles of excellence that would serve as a kind of support fund to back digital technology ventures launched by youth. These poles would be responsible for receiving and handling the projects put forward by young people and for selecting the best among them. They would then nurture and develop the selected projects all the way to final implementation. These poles of excellence would provide a healthy framework for guiding young people, by bringing the best possible ideas to the fore. They would also help address the thorny issue of unemployment, in the context of a public sector that is not in a position to employ all graduates. In this regard, the example of the Burkina Faso Startups Program should inspire other countries to follow suit.
Finally, each country should take steps to establish an ideas bank. Contrary to their traditional role, these banks would not set out to accumulate money, but would focus on innovative ideas that have the potential to promote the country’s development. Each African country could create its own bank to serve as a repository of the best available ideas, while establishing databases for current and future generations. The next step would be to bring all these ideas banks together in a single entity – the African Central Ideas Bank. This central bank concept would be based on the African Union model, an institution that is today a real source of inspiration and pride for the countries of Africa. We are convinced that this central idea’s bank could, in the not- too-distant future, herald an even greater reality, that of the “United States of Africa.”
Belem Abdoul Fataph Priva, a Burkinabé, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.