H.E. Dr. Amr Talaat, Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, has announced plans to provide more than 60 million people in rural areas with high-speed internet under an ambitious drive to unlock new pathways for economic growth.
“We want to improve internet connectivity for 60 million Egyptians living in around 4,500 villages by upgrading broadband infrastructure,” the Minister said. “We plan to invest more than US$360 million to connect one million households with fiber-optic cables that will ensure youth can access the internet and thus the knowledge, training and career opportunities offered by the digital world.”
Egypt has already invested more than $2 billion to increase average internet speed in major cities from 6.5 to 42.5 megabytes per second – a sevenfold increase in two years. The country will continue to upgrade its metropolitan internet infrastructure to level up its economy.
Also speaking during the workshop entitled ‘The Demographic Divide: Youth and Innovation for Transforming Africa,’ H.E. Dr. Rania A. Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, said: “Africa is considered the youngest continent on the planet, with around 60 percent of its population under the age of 25. There is no more urgent or important topic than youth empowerment, entrepreneurship and digital innovation. Creating a framework to support the young is vital; Africa’s future depends on it.”
In a pre-recorded message to the Egypt-ICF workshop, Vint Cerf, Vice President of Google, called on Africa to turn “digital technology into digital opportunity” by upskilling youth in order to drive GDP growth that raises living standards.
He added: “This is a time of unprecedented challenge – a pandemic, climate change and a host of other issues lie before us. But there is also opportunity. However, the technologies that offer the most potential will deliver little value if we do not have trained, skilled, thoughtful and creative people driving applications and new business models to take advantage of the digital infrastructure. The internet will not work well if it is not surrounded by talented people and a cooperative environment of like-minded countries.”
Examining ways to help Africa achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Frederika Meijer, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Egypt, said: “If you want balanced economic and population growth, you need to invest in women and ensure they stay in education for as long as possible. There is a huge gender divide in internet access.
“There’s also a rural-urban divide as well as a divide between the rich and the poor. We need to close these gaps and ensure everyone has equitable access to the internet. Financial institutions need to provide innovative financing solutions to young people, especially women. If we address these issues, then we can ensure a bright future for Africa.”
Speaking about empowering entrepreneurs and creating thriving continental startup ecosystems, Anna Ekeledo, Executive Director of AfriLabs, said: “Collaboration is vital for building synergy between startup ecosystems. We are currently funding a number of cross-regional projects in different countries. We are working with on an initiative in Kenya to support women entrepreneurs. Another really exciting way of fostering collaboration is through a multi-stakeholder approach that exchanges knowledge and creates opportunities for startups to scale up.”
The workshop was moderated by Dr. Khaled Ismail, Managing Partner at Grow in Africa Fund (GIAF). The strong panel of speakers also included Dr. Gihane Saleh, Advisor to the Egyptian Prime Minister for Economic Affairs; Eric Oechslin, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Egypt; Maha Afifi, Manager – Government Affairs & Public Policy at Google; Dr. Mohamed Farid Saleh, Executive Chairman of the Egyptian Exchange; Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, Chief Executive Director of Egypt’s General Authority for Investment and Free Zones; Dr. Ghaith Fariz, Director of UNESCO Regional Bureau for Sciences in the Arab States and Cluster Office for Egypt and Sudan and UNESCO Representative in Egypt; Dr. Budzanani Tacheba, Director of Innovation and Technology at Botswana Innovation Hub; Takunda Chingonzo, founder of The TechVillage; Abdoul Aziz Sy, founder and host of Impact Hub Dakar; and Claudia Makadristo, Senior Advisor and Ambassador at Seedstars.
Held under the patronage of H.E. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of Egypt, the two-day hybrid event aimed to mobilize the global development community and assert its collective commitment to sustainable development as a catalyst for the post-pandemic economic recovery.