Digitalisation can boost growth in Africa, but only if accompanied by efforts to empower women and teach young people new skills. According to speakers at Friends of Europe’s 17 June Africa Summit, attracting foreign investment to help upgrade infrastructure – from roads and railways to broadband connections – is another precondition for the digital revolution to take off.
“Technology is a way to disrupt development,” said Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO of Nigeria’s Tony Elumelu Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship.” Africa needs not a handout, but a hand up – help in leveraging technology.”
The outdated ‘aid and trade’ view of Africa is slowly being eroded, participants agreed. “It’s about building partnerships – not making Africa a market for Europe,” said Samir Abdelkrim, Founder of EMERGING Valley, a Marseille-based yearly summit on African innovation.
But to fully change old ideas about the continent, governments need to cooperate more with local authorities, international development banks, venture capitalists, young people and civil society, and enact business-friendly legislation to encourage start-ups. “The world of ICT, technology and the internet is not a separate world,” said Mali’s Digital Economy Minister, Kamissa Camara. “The inequalities we see in our daily lives are mirrored in the digital world.”
For Chiara Adamo, Head of Unit for Gender, Human Rights and Democratic Governance in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO), promoting gender equality is “economically smart”. According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Africa ‘lost’ over $100bn in 2014 because of gender gaps in the labour market.
“Gender equality is an endless fight,” said Elisabeth Guigou, President of the Anna Lindh Foundation, an NGO working to promote intercultural dialogue. “It’s a cultural fight. Women need to be supported by men.”
But it’s not all bad news, and in fact, there are relatively more African women in the workplace compared to North America, Europe and Asia (though many work in informal and low-paid jobs), while two sub-Saharan African countries (Rwanda and Namibia) are in the Word Economic Forum’s top 10 for gender equality.
“Africa is changing and that old-fashioned, outdated groupthink on Africa really needs to be put aside,” said Shada Islam, Friends of Europe’s Director for Europe and Geopolitics, “and a more realistic view of what’s really happening – the good, the bad, the positive and the negative – we need to look at both sides.”
Held on the eve of the European Development Days, this high-level conference will look at the challenges and opportunities Africa and Europe must grapple with to ensure resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth.
Africa and Europe are in the midst of a massive transformation of their economic, political and social structures. While many welcome these changes, others fear being left behind, prompting societal anxieties and possible social unrest. This is creating a politics which could undermine the very policies that will address the challenges at hand. Europe and Africa can learn much from each other on tackling these and other challenges. This requires, however, that both agree to engage in a partnership of shared objectives and interests.
This event is part of our Development Policy Forum (DPF), which brings together a number of important development actors, including the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the United Nations and the World Bank. Reflecting the growing role of the private sector in development, the DPF has now welcomed Coca-Cola and Eni to the forum. The DPF contributes to the global and European conversation on inclusive development. Through its activities and publications, the DPF reflects the rapidly-changing global debate on growth and development and seeks to encourage a multi-stakeholdered, fresh, up-to-date thinking on the multiple challenges facing the development community.
PHOTO CREDIT: borgogniels
HOW I AM CHANGING AFRICA
Despite the outdated perception that Africa lags behind the rest of the world technologically, the continent is a vibrant landscape for innovation and entrepreneurship. Africa is home not only to the world’s largest population of 15- to 24-year-olds, but also to numerous tech start-ups – many of which are youth-led and having great impact on the ground.
This series of 5 conversation tables that run in parallel will be an opportunity for both European and African stakeholders to have a fruitful interaction and exchange innovative ideas with the leaders of African tech start-ups who are changing the narrative about their continent.
Prior registration for this session is required. Each table can welcome a maximum of 10 participants, and seating is allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Table 1 — Helping people in low income communities get value from their waste while saving the environment
Olawale Adebiyi Abiola
Chief Executive Officer of Wecyclers
Table 2 — Driving innovation through female leadership and collaborative economy
Founder of FemPower Africa
Table 3 — Implementing data analytics and machine learning to advance in Malaria prevention and research worldwide
Founder of Solidariedade Na Mokili
Table 4 — Supporting education projects across the whole continent
Founder and Vice President of H.I.S Adventures
Table 5 — In Chad, only 6.4% of the population has access to electricity. Solar power can change this
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kouran Jabo
WOMEN, PEACE AND GOVERNANCE
Peace, security and good governance are pre-requisites for development and social cohesion. So is gender equality. Over the years, African governments, regional and sub-regional organisations have made significant commitments towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. Following the adoption of the African Union Gender Policy in 2009, African leaders launched the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020 and the Fund for African Women to accelerate the implementation of all commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Women hold close to one-third of parliamentary seats in 11 African countries, with Rwanda often spotlighted as the poster child for gender equality. However, almost all African Union envoys to conflict zones are men despite evidence that when peace agreements are negotiated by women, they are more durable and sustainable.
- Are African governments implementing the right policies to encourage female leadership and the participation of women in politics, business and societies?
- What can be done to ensure women’s participation in peacekeeping, conflict resolution and reconciliation?
- Which specific actions are needed to bring more women into leadership positions in African?
Founding Partner and CEO of Regenopolis and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Minister of Digital Economy and Prospective of Mali
President of the Anna Lindh Foundation and former French Minister
Special Advisor to the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs and AVSI Board Member
Sustainability Director for South and East Africa at The Coca-Cola Company
Chief Executive Officer of the Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE)
Managing Director at New Horizons Project
SKILLS, YOUTH AND THE POWER OF DIGITAL CONNECTIVITY
By 2030, Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to more than one-quarter of the world’s under-25 population. These young people represent a demographic opportunity but can only play a constructive and productive role if they acquire the skills required to meet the demands of the future. With new technologies expected to create 2.1mn new jobs by 2020, African youth need relevant new skills including not only digital literacy but also creativity, critical thinking, flexibility and leadership. If they succeed, Africa will be able to tap the full potential of digital technologies. This revolution is already reshaping the continent by generating new market opportunities, improving firms’ productivity and enhancing Africa’s comparative advantage in global production networks. Digital connectivity is also transforming access to health and education and shifting relations between state and citizens.
- What skills are required in the workforce to realise the full economic benefits of digitalisation?
- Are governments doing enough to bridge the geographic, demographic, speed and gender connectivity disparities to allow everyone to benefit from the digital revolution?
- How can Africa and Europe work together to improve African millennials’ access to skills for the future?
Author, Entrepreneur and Founder of EMERGING Valley, and StartupBRICS and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Founder and Managing Director of Bandwidth & Cloud Services Group (BCS Group)
Director-General of the Africa Department, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Germany
Co-Founder and CEO of Quirky 30 NPC
Chief Executive Officer of the Tony Elumelu Foundation
Managing Director at New Horizons Project
Samir Abdelkrim is not only an entrepreneur but also a consultant, an author, a speaker and a tech reporter. In addition to leading StartupBRICS, a media and consultancy company that specialises in providing insights about innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa and emerging economies, Abdelkrim also reports on African tech entrepreneurs and start-ups for Le Monde Afrique and Les Échos. His book, ‘Startup Lions’, chronicles his experience travelling the African continent in search of the most interesting tech start-ups. Abdelkrim’s aim is to boost media exposure for these start-ups and attract potential investors.
Stepping into the shoes of Wecyclers’ founder and first CEO – a position previously held by his very own sister – was never going to be easy, but Olawale Adebiyi’s decade of experience working in the steel industry has served him well in helping Wecyclers grow larger and move towards achieving their ambitious aims – making Nigeria the world leader in recycling. The company is creating a low-cost recycling infrastructure in Nigeria, allowing people in low income communities to create value from their waste, as well as improving recycling efficiency for companies which, for a variety of reasons, are more likely to contribute more to landfill.
Sandra Ajaja is the founder of FemPower Africa, a social enterprise that seeks to teach women in Nigeria and Africa about technology, leadership and entrepreneurship. Since its inception in 2017, FemPower Africa has grown to over 2,000 members, supported 52 women-owned business (achieving funding for 10), and has trained over 2,000 individuals in 3 countries. Prior to FemPower, Ajaja worked as an educational technology consultant. She is passionate about the African Tech ecosystem, driving innovation through thought leadership, pushing a collaborative economy and building strong communities.
Diane Binder is a business executive and social entrepreneur, with extensive experience in developing public-private alliances which promote urban resilience, climate adaptation and mitigation. She is a Founding Partner and CEO of Regenopolis, an initiative for regenerative cities in Africa. In addition to serving as a member of the French Presidential Council for Africa, Diane is also the President and Co-Founder of Action Emploi Réfugiés. She previously worked at SUEZ, a leader in water supply and waste management services.
When Kamissa Camara joined the Malian Government, she became both the youngest person and the first woman to hold the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Prior to this position, she served as Diplomatic Advisor to President Keïta. Camara is the founder of the Sahel Strategy Forum, an initiative that brings together different voices to debate the complexities of governance in the Sahel region. She also worked as the Vice-Director for Central and West Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy and has been a researcher at the Centre for African Studies of Harvard University.
Boutheina Guermazi leads a global team working on building digital economies in developing countries. The team covers a wide range of digital developments, including broadband networks, mobile networks, cloud infrastructure, internet of things and big data analytics. Prior to this role, she was Practice Manager of Digital Development for Africa and the Middle East. Guermazi also leads the Digital Development Partnership, a fund focusing on global digital development, and she is a member of the EU-AU Digital Economy Task Force jointly launched by the European Commission and the African Union.
Elisabeth Guigou is president of the Anna Lindh Foundation, a network of civil society organisations dedicated to promoting intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean region. Before this appointment, Guigou served as French Minister of European Affairs, member of the European Parliament, and member of the French National Assembly, among numerous other posts. In addition to this, Guigou was the first female to be appointed Minister of Justice in France, where she distinguished herself for her fight for a more independent justice system.
With over 30 years of experience in the European Commission, Stefano Manservisi has covered a wide range of topics. Prior to his current position, he served as European Commission Director-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) and Head of Cabinet for European Commission Vice-President Mogherini, former Commission President Prodi and former Commissioner Monti. He also acted as Director-General for Migration and Home Affairs (HOME) and was Head of the Delegation of the EU to Turkey. In the past, Manservisi has been a visiting professor at the College of Europe, University of Roma III and the University of Bologna.
Building on his extensive experience in private equity, investment banking and software engineering, Yonas Maru founded BCS Group in 2009. BCS Group is a wholesale telecom infrastructure provider in East Africa that aims to provide users with a first-rate internet experience at a low price. Prior to founding BCS Group, Maru was responsible for the business development of securitisation transactions at Kingdom Zephyr Africa Management. He was also an Associate at McKinsey & Co.
Louison Mbombo is a medical student at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, and the founder of the Mbombo Initiative Against Malaria (Solidariedade Na Mokili) non-profit organisation. His initiative works in partnership with Google and Microsoft to implement data analytics and machine learning to advance in malaria prevention and research. Since its creation, the initiative has reached over 10mn people, through raising money for treatment, providing health education to families and health professionals, and distributing mosquito nets. For his outstanding achievements, Mbombo was awarded with the best project to prevent childhood malaria death in 27 countries by UNESCO.
With almost thirty years of experience working at GIZ, Sabine Müller leads the Africa Department. Before that, she was Director-General of the Sectoral Department and a number of regional divisions. Müller spent her first years at GIZ in Latin America, where she was involved in a long-term project on sustainable land use with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture. She also headed a GIZ project promoting small-scale farming in Uruguay.
Only one of every four women in Libya is legally employed, according to the World Bank. Fattoum Nasser set out to change that, with the help of Yummy!, the app she co-founded and runs with her business partner, Azeeza Adam. Born out of an experience of hunger during a digital workshop, Yummy! aims to give women the opportunity to grow their own business by selling their own, homemade food. Yummy! acts as a mediator, allowing the business to avoid direct contact with its clients, ensuring safe and on time delivery without forcing women to travel into unsafe areas.
With almost 10 years’ experience at The Coca-Cola Company, Dorcas Onyango has an extremely broad skillset, of which development expertise, project management and stakeholder engagement are inclusive. Prior to this, she was Director of Programmes and Implementation at The Coca-Cola Company, also in addition to her role as Marketing and Communications Manager at the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. She is passionate about gender equality, access to education and youth empowerment, having successfully led civil society, government and private sector partners to design, implement and measure Pan-African initiatives such as RAIN, which has improved access to water for 2 million people in Africa.
As Chief Executive Officer of ESWADE, Samson Sithole aspires to empower communities and improve their quality of life through commercial agriculture projects. With an extensive experience in rural development, water infrastructure and climate resilience, Sithole is currently working on the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project Programme in Swaziland. By transforming subsistence farmers into commercial farmers, the project improves the standard of living in the area and sets up a sustainable and gender-inclusive environment.
Sihle Tshabalala is a champion for disadvantaged populations, seeking to empower them through digital skills. His Quirky 30 NPC is a non-profit and public benefit organisation offering pathways out of poverty, inequality and crime through coding programmes. A self-taught coder, Tshabalala also co-founded the Brothers for All school, teaching former inmates, unemployed youth and vulnerable children. He has received several awards for his ground-breaking work, including the Spark Changemaker award, TEDx Fellowship, Africa Social Innovation Leadership Award and the Google Impact South Africa Challenge Finalists.
Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu holds the distinction of being the first African to be appointed Chief Executive Officer of The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Africa’s leading philanthropy initiative. Prior to that, she was Director of Partnerships & Evaluations at the Foundation, developing its institutional framework for partnerships to scale the impact of the TEF Entrepreneurship programme and to empower over 10,000 entrepreneurs. The resulting strategic partnerships with governments, development finance institutions, multilaterals and private organisations led to a record-breaking selection of 3,050 entrepreneurs in 2019.
Returning to his native Chad after working as a consultant for start-ups in both Paris and Dubai, Youssouf Ali was inspired to set up Kouran Jabo after seeing the enduring dependence on kerosene lamps and candles for light in Ndjamena. The company, whose name means ‘power is back’ in Arabic, aims to deliver clean electricity via solar panels to lower-income families across Central Africa. With over 100 solar kits installed in Ndjamena, Kouran Jabo’s next step is to move into the provinces.
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- By Krystal Gaillard
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