Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 December 2021:
A section of African ICT Ministers has resolved to end unemployment and expand entrepreneurship in the knowledge and traditional sectors of the continent, by developing the digital skills in Africa.
This resolve was arrived at during a virtual Ministerial Roundtable Forum organized by the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to commemorate Africa ICT Day, celebrated every 7th December.
The 2021 celebrations under the theme, “Digital Skills Development for Africa’s Digital Transformation”, presented an opportunity for Governments, policy makers, the private sector, regional development bodies and ICT stakeholders to deliberate on strategic ways to overcome the barriers that prevent Africans from the effective use of ICTs.
Speaking during the forum, the ATU Secretary General Mr. John OMO regretted Africa’s failure to effectively compete with other regions in harnessing the opportunities created by emerging ICT technologies due to the lack of digital skills.
“There is an urgent need for Africa to equip and prepare her citizens with the right digital skills for the uptake of emerging technologies such as 4IR for the socio-economic benefit of the continent,” he cautioned.
This year’s Africa ICT Day celebration comes days after a publication of data establishing that between 2019 and 2021, Africa has had a 23 percent increase in internet usage.
The data produced by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), further suggests that despite Africa experiencing this significant growth, the continent is battling with widening differences in ICT skill levels between age groups, occupation, gender and location in terms of access and use of internet.
In appreciating the importance of capacity building in Africa’s digital transformation journey, the event Chief Guest, Mr. Joe MUCHERU, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT Kenya, urged policy makers and regulators to adopt the just developed ATU e-skills framework that is aimed at assisting African countries understand and address underlying trends, gaps, and projections for the effective implementation of national e-skilling initiatives and consequently the realization of digital economies.
“For us to fully respond to and harness the power of emerging technologies, we need to work together and embrace massive e-skills development as a gateway to fulfilling the potential and the promise of Africa’s vibrant digital future,” he said.
ICT regulators and policy makers from the region held the view that building a regional movement committed to developing e-skills in readiness for the continent’s uptake of emerging technologies, must be prioritized.
Reflecting on this position, mobile giant Nokia’s Head of Government & Policy Affairs Middle East & Africa – Mr. Brahim GHRIBI, urged stakeholders to invest in collaboration with especially the youth whose talent, he stressed, will constitute the main work force of tomorrow.
“It is through collective effort and collaboration between all stakeholders that we can equip the African youth with the right digital tools and skills to be employable, productive, creative, and successful in the digital era,” he said.
Representing the regions of Africa at the forum were the ICT ministers from Senegal, South Africa, Kenya and Chad, and the Chief of staff from the ministry of ICT Tunisia. The private sector was represented by delegates from NOKIA and the Global System for Mobile Communications. NOKIA also co-sponsored the event.
The African Telecoms/ICT Day is an annual event that commemorates the establishment of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), a specialized agency of the African Union in the field of telecommunications/ICTs.
Each year, based on a preconceived theme, policy makers from African countries use the day to reflect on ICT development in the region, its role in Africa’s socio-economic development and effective ways of enhancing the growth of ICT in the continent.
The African Telecommunications Union (ATU) was founded in 1977 as a specialized agency of the Organization of African Unity, now African Union, in the field of telecommunications with Member States as its membership.
ATU took its present name in 1999 via a transformation which in part saw the incorporation of the private sector into its membership as associate members.
ATU provides a forum for stakeholders involved in ICT to formulate effective policies and strategies aimed at improving access to information infrastructure and services. In addition, the Union represents the interests of its members at global decision-making conferences and promotes initiatives aimed at integrating regional markets, attracting investment into ICT infrastructure, and building institutional and human capacity.
The mission of the Union is to accelerate the development of the telecommunications/ICTs in Africa in order to achieve digital economies. The Union envisions an Africa that is empowered as an inclusive information society with strong digital economies for sustainable social, economic and environmental development in Africa.
ATU currently has 48 Member States drawn from Governments and 54 Associate Members from within and outside the African region.