Minister Ayanda Dlodlo: Youth Engagement Programme at World Economic Forum Africa

Address by the Minister of Communications, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo on the occasion of the Youth Engagement Programme, at the World Economic Forum Africa, Durban Exhibition Centre

Programme Director
Cabinet Members and Deputy Ministers
Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal
Esteem Leaders of the Business Community, Government & Civil Society
Special acknowledgement to tomorrow’s leadership represented by the youth present
Comrades and Compatriots

Firstly, I would like to welcome all delegates, in particular our youth from across the African continent. Youth are our future and we must inspire them to achieve greatness. We learn a great deal from them.

The ANC-led government formulated the National Development Plan (NDP) which gives effect to our Constitutional provisions that seek to create the necessary modern electronic society in order "to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person."

The NDP further mandates us to establish a "seamless information infrastructure by 2030 that will underpin a dynamic and connected vibrant information society and a knowledge economy that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous."

In some circles when we speak of inclusive economic growth, we speak about radical economic transformation. Innovation also forms an anchor of the NDP, with specific focus on education, training and skills for innovative and knowledge society.

This is same vision shared in the AU Agenda 2063 and UN SDGs focusing on "Investing in Africa's human capital for peace and development."

The African Union has a Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa. This plan recommits countries who have signed the Agreement to invest 1% of Member states funding on Research and Development.

The National Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has a number of programmes that seek to develop and empower our youth from across the continent.

These include human capital development (skills, youth and women empowerment); industrialisation, science, technology and innovation; as well as regional integration, infrastructure (energy, water, ICT, transport) and trade.

Lastly, there is a programme on national resources, governance and food security. Each of these programmes are geared to involve and benefit the youth.

There is a need to improve resource mobilisation for our programmes through pooling together African resources in the form of our own institutes, universities, experts, exchanges to share best practices on innovation aimed at strengthening our capabilities as a continent.

Africans have always been pioneers in innovation, so let no one tell you we don’t know anything about us. We are not an incompetent people. Look at Egyptian pyramids, the old City of Great Zimbabwe, the Old City of Timbuktu (architecture), intricate sculptures of Makhondo of Tanzania and Mozambique, the bronzes of Benin and Nigeria, the beautiful rock paintings of the Drakensberg and Algeria.

We have a rich astronomical heritage ...the Dogon people of Mali have generational knowledge of the Star Sirius A&B which appears only once in 50 years.

There is a recognition that none can contest, that this era of the Digital Revolution requires the inclusion of young people and it must be implemented in a manner that will address the following:

  • Implementation of an enabling, coordinated and integrated e-strategies
  • ICT sector should enable youth economic activities through encouraging innovations and entrepreneurial acumen
  • Training youth on the digital skills required for the future
  • Build digital institutions that will capacitate them with necessary voice and competencies
  • Make the digital infrastructure affordable, and available to youth for both social and economic development

Currently, the youth and particularly African youth are largely unemployed and not part of the mainstream economy. As Government, we realise this as huge crisis and there is a need to focus on young people.

Certainly in the ICT sector we recognise youth as critical stakeholders in the uptake, increase and usage of ICTs. We recognise and hail you as champions and ambassadors of the digital revolution, because under your stewardship there will be a mass appeal and increased usage levels.

Innovation across the world has been driven by youth- from the introductions of cellular phones in South Africa - the Please Call Me was invented in SA by a youth; Mix-It, lobola app, Waze GPS, and now the recently “Afta Robots” for all you need to know about your taxi ride.

What is most appreciated about these innovation, especially in the African continent, is that they provide digital solutions to address common continental problems and overcome the broader restrictions of technology standards gap.

These innovative applications developed by the young people in the African continent has provided an increased usage of digital technology to facilitate cross-border trade and enhance online service transactions adopted by all in the continent. But more importantly, it realises the goals of our fore-fathers, of a self-sustainable, self-reliant Africa: Africa Rising!

There is a need to build and invest sustainable youth innovation programmes both in our country and for the African continent because the young people in Africa can turn out to be the greatest asset of our life time. Network, interact, learn and enjoy the experience and collaborate with others to provide solutions to challenges that face Humanity.

The following elements must be addressed in encouraging youth innovation:

  • Build increased commitment to investment in youth
  • Encourage youth participation and partnership through mobilization of funding for innovation and start-ups.
  • Build intercultural understanding among the African youth through a programme of "Connect African Youth."

Africa is experiencing the most rapid urbanisation in the world and remains a young population with 65% of the over 1.1 Billion population under the age of 35 year. It is projected by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) that the African population will more than double, rising to 2.4 Billion by 2050.

The other important features that will need to be urgently addressed or taken advantage about the digital revolution is that African continent has more people aged under 20 than anywhere in the world and the continent could be sitting on the greatest economic assets of our life time.

The reason is simple, if the number of working age individuals can be gainfully employed, the level of per capita income should increase making the youth bulge an economic dividend. If the youth cannot find work, the bulge becomes a bomb, which can be a source of political and social instability.

Information Communication Technology (ICTs) has both social and transformative aspects. On the one hand, it assists governments to accelerate public services more efficiently to underserved communities. It ignites growth that creates sustainable pathways out of poverty.

As such, leaders all over the world, particularly those in the African continent agree that innovation through the internet has positive economic results. The usage of various web platforms have drastically aided and improved agriculture, education, health, and governance services by otherwise underserved communities.

Private-public partnerships are to enable skills development, more specifically youth skills massification as a core activity, which is an essential enabler of economic growth and social inclusion.

This is in line with creating jobs, through growth, radical economic transformation, upskilling, innovation, and competitiveness. Job creation is high on the agenda of the South African Government.

The South African government recognises SMMEs as the backbone of the economy, as SMME employers account for 14% total employment and contribute 42% to the GDP.

There is also an acknowledgment that SMMEs promote broad-based equitable development and provide more opportunity for Women and Youth participation in the economic development of our country and the continent.

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to engage with you and look forward to constructive and vibrant discussions on how we can intensify the role of youth innovation in integrating African markets.

Investment in skills development is the one element that will give us the edge.

It is through our policy frame work and partnerships that will enable our people to come up with research, gadgets and applications that will solves African problems and make our country more competitive.

I thank you.

William Baloyi
Cell: 083 3907 147

Speech date:: 
Wednesday, May 3, 2017