Ghanaian Communication Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful speaks during an interview with Xinhua in Aswan, Egypt, on Dec. 12, 2019. The digital economy provides an opportunity for African countries to transform their economies and create skillful jobs, Owusu-Ekuful said in a recent interview with Xinhua.(Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)
by Marwa Yahya
ASWAN, Egypt, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) -- The digital economy provides an opportunity for African countries to transform their economies and create skillful jobs, Ghanaian Communication Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
"Many conflicts in Africa are fueled by poverty, inequality and exclusion. With technology, we have a chance of providing more opportunities for people to get sustainable jobs in health, education, agriculture, trade and commerce sectors," Owusu-Ekuful said.
Terming technology as an enabler and accelerator, the minister said "access to the internet data and communication should be treated like water and electricity utilities."
"We can't leave our young people, who breathes technology, behind," she added, explaining if the youth feel excluded, or have no opportunity for the future, they will get involved in antisocial activities, which may fuel conflicts.
Developing the banking sector in some African countries like Kenya by revolutionizing digital financial services is an example of embracing technology and utilizing it to create more opportunities for our youth, she reiterated.
However, Owusu-Ekuful said "many innovative solutions that young Africans have developed are just waiting for investors to help them to take it to the markets."
She stressed on the role of the governments in providing an enabling and regulatory environment, and the frame works that would be "the key to unlocking the potential of African youth."
It's the right time for African countries to allocate more funds for the digital infrastructure, she said.
So broadband, fiber connectivity and access to electricity and to the skills that will enable them to use this infrastructure are also critical, she emphasized.
"Africa within the next 20 years with our youthful population will provide the workforce for the rest of the world," said the minister.
Commenting on some concerns of losing jobs if work depends greatly on technology, the minister said "I think that some jobs will be lost. Many more will be created if they have the right skills."
So, "the emphasis for us is on providing them with quality education and the digital skills to enable them to succeed," she stressed.
Technology is great for those who have skills, Owusu-Ekuful said, noting that "there is a transition from the old way of doing things to the new exciting way of doing things. And many more jobs which were unheard of a few years ago are now being created."
She highlighted while some traditional labor-intensive occupations, jobs will be lost, the young people will acquire new skills that they need to succeed.
"I believe that only technology will help Africa leapfrog and it is in our interest to invest in that because governments can't do it alone without the private sector and foreign investments," added Owusu-Ekuful.
She reiterated that technology is a key factor for promotion of the African Union's 2063 Agenda which is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years.
She highlighted women in Africa still have a long way to go, but increasingly are pushing forward the boundaries.
For women, they can work for better flexible time and deliver the results through communications and technology, without leaving home, so that they can take care of children and still deliver according to the deadlines, she said.
The same for the young people who can get included in any digital work. "With technology, we can energize and accelerate every sector and that is what makes it so pivotal."
"Africa doesn't just have to be a consumer of technology produced elsewhere," she added, pointing out Africa is rich with a huge market waiting to be discovered.
"Investing in the infrastructure and the people of the continent will ensure that those men and women take part in the development of our continent without exclusion that destroys the continental potentials and drags it into conflicts," she added.