Ecosystem players must upskill and train youth, particularly African youth, to not only interact with gadgets as consumers but also as producers.
So said John Omo, secretary-general of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), speaking at Huawei’s Digital Talent Summit ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023, in Barcelona, Spain.
The ATU is a specialised organ of the Africa Union in the field of ICT, whose mandate is to promote communications development in Africa for universal access.
Omo explained that the majority of the youth on the continent still don’t produce the digital content they consume.
They are absorbing content on TikTok and the like but are not being creative, he explained. “We need to ensure the ecosystem encourages whatever comes through video apps also contributes towards creativity.
“This is so that it’s not just absorbing videos forever, but also encouraging the youth to have a creative mind, to develop their own content rather than only being consumers of content.
According to Omo, the ATU’s vision for Africa is a continent that is empowered and able to participate actively in the global information society. It is therefore crucial that African youth have access to global opportunities.
He noted that Africa is a youthful continent, accounting for over 60% of Africa’s population. By 2030, young Africans are expected to constitute 42% of global youth.
Omo believes youth are optimistic, creative and determined − attributes he listed as important for innovation.
However, they are faced with a number of challenges that make it difficult to turn their ideas into innovative solutions, such as a lack of technical knowledge, few networks, limited access to markets, lack of prior experience and lack of funds to invest.
Within the African context, he said the challenges are much greater, with no strong network of angel investors, not a lot of research grants available, weak training capacities in many institutions, and limited commercialisation support available in universities.
As a result, the ATU believes a supportive ecosystem can help youth overcome these challenges. “It will take all of us working together to create an ecosystem that ensures anybody, any youth with a creative mind can get an opportunity anywhere.”
The other challenge in Africa is that ecosystems players are creating bottlenecks in innovation, Omo added. “We have seen so much silo working in Africa – we need to build an alliance of some sort so that we don’t work in silos.
“There’s so much duplication of resources, there’s so much wastage of resource and nowhere is this more apparent than Africa. I don’t know at what time we’ll stand up and say ‘enough is enough’; let’s work together so that we have better, bigger and more impactful experiences for our youth.”
He stated the ATU is committed to working with everybody in the ecosystem to ensure the youth get the right opportunities. “When you invest in the youth…you are investing in your future or that solution that will solve a problem that we have.
“We must ensure youth have the skills, networks and ecosystem support necessary to achieve their potential.”
MWC 2023 is under way in Barcelona, Spain, until 2 March.