African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina has urged Africans to embrace technology, and governments to urgently move away from "investing in the jobs of the past, but rather in the jobs of the future. A future that is just around the corner."
Adesina was addressing a debate entitled The New Tech Era: Job-killer or Job-creator? organised by Africa Report and Jeune Afrique as part of the 2019 Mo Ibrahim Governance Week in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.
Adesina said, "The people who control data, will control Africa. Coding must be compulsory, at all levels. The currency of the future is going to be coding. Information technology must not be the exclusive privilege of the elite, we must democratise technology."
Panelists included Pascal Lamy, board Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and past Director-General of the World Trade Organisation; Eric Kacou, an Ivorian businessman and co-founder of ESP Solutions; Chioma Agwuegbo, a Nigerian tech specialist and Zyad Liman, publishing director of Afrique Magazine.
Mo Ibrahim urged the panelists to think about ways to address the "tsunami of young people entering the job market."
In response to that call to action, Kacou insisted on the need for "a change in mindset to move from BBC or Born Before Computers to rethinking education to teach people how to learn and help them solve problems."
Panellists acknowledged the critical role the tech industry can play in Africa's economic transformation through the continent's digitization. However, they agreed on the urgent need to upgrade the skills of the past, to do it fast, and move away from the social fear of technology.
Organisers claim research shows if governments harness the full economic potential of just the internet, Africa could add US$300-billion to its GDP by 2025. Also, 70% of all jobs will have an ICT component by 2020.
"We must grab the opportunities...We must democratise technology. Africa should prepare itself. Digital technologies, including Artificial intelligence, big data analytics, blockchains, 3D printing, are already upon us," Adesina concluded.
The three-hour interactive session ended with members of the audience calling for accelerated policy reforms and creating an enabling environment for innovative technology to thrive.
Data protection, identity protection and fake news - and how to turn population into assets – dominated discussion.