Digital skills development for African girls and women received a major boost at the first #eSkills4Girls Africa Meetup held ahead of the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The event aimed to create a platform for female tech leaders in Africa to share experiences and knowledge, and brought together entrepreneurs, activists and mentors who are involved in initiatives aimed at improving girls’ digital skills and participation in the digital world. The Meetup was organized by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with SAP, UNESCO and GIZ.
Access to quality education is one of the most pressing issues facing the African continent. Despite making great strides in ensuring adequate education opportunities across sub-Saharan Africa, a UNESCO study found that as many as one in every three children are still out of school. In a separate study by the Brookings Institute, data pointed to an estimated 61 million African children who will reach adolescence without even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills.
“We need to prepare Africa’s youth to be critical thinkers so they are ready to face the challenges of the future. UNESCO pioneered open educational resources in 2002 with the belief that content and free and open source software should be shared freely. Initiatives such as #eSkills4Girls further builds on the work UNESCO has done in this regard,” said Davide Storti, Programme Specialist for the Communication and Information Sector at UNESCO. “It is essential that youth are not only exposed to technology, but properly educated and equipped with the necessary tools and digital literacy skills to successfully join the workforce. UNESCO’s YouthMobile initiative, a partner of the Meetup, aims to ensure that young people have access to, and can take advantage of, the opportunities the ICT field provides and contribute to sustainable development in their countries through ICT innovation and entrepreneurship.”
The meetup was part of a broader initiative called #eSkills4Girls which was launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in the framework of Germany’s G20 presidency 2017. The objective of the #eSkills4Girls initiative is to overcome the gender digital divide and contribute to improved digital skills and employment opportunities for girls and women in emerging and developing countries.
According to Birgit Frank, Senior Policy Officer for the Education and Digital World Division at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), there are still huge challenges facing women in Africa’s digital revolution. “Prevailing cultural barriers and stereotypes means women are 1.6 times more likely to report a lack of digital skills as a barrier to their involvement in the Digital Economy. There are currently 250 million fewer women online than men, and we need to urgently close this gap. This initiative empowers girls and women particularly in emerging and developing countries by promoting digital skills to improve their job prospects in an ever increasingly digital world.”
At the end of 2016, SAP and BMZ signed a historic agreement to strengthen tech entrepreneurship in developing countries, bringing together key public and private sector players in Germany, Europe, and developing countries to foster IT start-ups under the BMZ’s Make-IT initiative. The first project worldwide is currently being piloted in Nigeria. The partnership between BMZ, GIZ and SAP was also featured at the recent World Economic Forum Africa, held in Durban and is part of BMZ’s Make-IT Alliance.
For Claire Gillissen-Duval, Director of EMEA Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP, efforts to drive Africa’s digital transformation are best-supported with large-scale skills development and training interventions such as the celebrated Africa Code Week initiative. “This year we aim to train half a million African youth. By teaching youth basic coding skills, we are tapping into Africa’s most precious resource – its people – and unlocking a new phase of growth and prosperity on the African continent. It is thanks to our partners that we can truly say that Africa Code Week is an effective and one-of-a-kind continental skills development program that successfully brings African youth into the formal Digital Economy fold.”
The 2017 Africa Code Week initiative will take place across 35 countries from 18-25 October. For more information about Africa Code Week, please visit http://africacodeweek.org/
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of SAP Africa.