#TAS2023: Giving youth a seat at the table to shape Africa’s digital future
10.05.2023AU-EU D4D Hub youth delegates at the Transform Africa Summit share their main takeaways from the event
With more than 4000 attendees, including five Heads of State, the Transform Africa Summit (TAS) 2023 was one of this year’s most important events aimed at shaping the continent’s digital transformation.
Held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from 24-26 April, TAS gathered policymakers and business leaders to discuss how to boost investments and collaborations in the digital field. Over 50 sessions, networking events, and exhibition booths fostered exchanges on diverse topics such as financial inclusion, data protection, cross-border e-commerce, and the twin transition.
The AU-EU D4D Hub organised several activities at TAS, including a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the Global Gateway and trusted connectivity between Africa and Europe. The project also sponsored a delegation of youth representatives to participate in the conference, meet digital transformation leaders, and contribute to the discussions. Below are their main takeaways from this experience.
1. Investing in connectivity should be a top priority to achieve Africa’s digital transformation ambitions
One of the most widely discussed topics at TAS was how to meet the continent’s connectivity and infrastructure needs – boosting investments not only to increase availability but also to guarantee access for everyone.
Tatiana Houndjo, a youth delegate and digital expert from Benin who was a speaker at the AU-EU D4D Hub session, delivered a powerful message in this regard: “One thing is to build infrastructure, but another is to make sure that connectivity remains accessible and affordable for everyone. Internet should not cost a young person half of his or her salary as a graduate. We need to bridge the digital divide, and the first step is to make broadband affordable not just for the privileged.”
2. Harmonising regulation will be key to achieving a digital single market in Africa
TAS also served as a platform to discuss the next steps to continue building a digital single market in Africa, including the need for enabling policies for cross-border trade and harmonisation of regulations between countries.
“Smart Africa’s vision of building a single digital market requires creating the spaces for the necessary dialogue and physical interactions,” said Ray Nkum, African Union Digital & Innovation Youth Fellow from Ghana, praising TAS’ role as a facilitator of these conversations and calling for more opportunities for youth to play a role in these spaces.
“The discussions at TAS were informative and provided valuable insights on the way forward towards achieving a more efficient and effective cross-border payment system for digital trade and connectivity in Africa,” Ray added.
3. Digital platforms can be used to boost youth participation
Jean Désiré Kouassi, a member of the EU Youth Sounding Board from Côte d’Ivoire, highlighted digital technologies’ potential to amplify youth voices and promote active participation in political spaces: “We should set up digital platforms where youth can express their views and counter the rise of disinformation in Africa.”
This requires, however, investing in building digital skills – a view that was widely echoed throughout the conference.
In this sense, Anny Sybille Izere, an entrepreneur and communications expert from Burundi, advocated for the inclusion of digital skills in the school curricula. “We must strengthen education systems across Africa so students can acquire digital skills from an early age,” she said.
Anny Sybille also called for support for youth-led and grassroots initiatives that are working to address the skills gap and reduce the digital divide in communities.
4. There are many opportunities for Africa and Europe to work together in the digital field
During TAS, the AU-EU D4D Hub youth delegates had the opportunity to meet Myriam Ferran, Deputy Director General for International Partnerships at the European Commission, as well as Mariin Ratnik, Undersecretary for Economic and Development Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia.
During these encounters, they had the opportunity to exchange on new areas to increase digital cooperation between Africa and Europe. The topics that were identified included youth participation in the implementation of joint AU-EU initiatives, exchanges of experiences in the adoption and implementation of regulations such as the EU Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, development of projects on digital democracy to tackle disinformation, and the introduction of digital tools in the public sector to provide services to citizens.