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ECA’s Gatete advocates for skills-based education for Africa’s technological advancement

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“Our conversations should not only be about how many are schooled but rather how many are skilled,” said Claver Gatete, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Speaking at the 2024 edition of the annual ECA Africa Business Forum (ABF2024), held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 19 February 2024, he highlighted the importance of shifting the focus of education to address its relevance and inclusivity in the digital age.

With hundreds of participants, including government and private sector representatives from across Africa and beyond, ABF2024 served as a hotbed for discussions on the transformative power of technology and innovation for the continent’s future.

Mr. Gatete highlighted the potential of Africa to become a global solutions powerhouse through concentrated efforts in science and technology.

“Investment in these fields is crucial for job creation, boosting productivity, and enhancing competitiveness,” said Mr. Gatete, underscoring the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as critical tools to address social and economic challenges.

While acknowledging the significant growth in broadband access and the mobile money market’s value at $836.5 billion, Mr. Gatete stressed that these achievements pale in comparison to the vast potential available. He raised crucial questions about bridging the digital skills gap for 650 million workers by 2030 and generating millions of jobs for Africa’s youth.

“The potential of Africa’s digital economy is enormous. However, realizing this potential rests on closing critical gaps in digital skills, data generation, and utilization, as well as the requisite infrastructure,” he added.

Doron Avni, Google’s Vice President for Emerging Markets, underscored the transformative power of AI and its potential role in enabling sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa. He called for inclusive AI education and government investment in this area, adding that “making AI and building AI for Africa by Africa” is something Google strongly supports.

Representing the Nigerian President at the forum, the Minister of State for Education, Yusuf Tanko Sununu, called for a radical approach to education, stating, “It’s time to think outside the box if we must achieve the transformation we want.” He highlighted the necessity of integrating technology into educational systems.

The need for educational reform across Africa was also echoed by Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Prof. Amon Murwira. He advocated for moving from a system that produces mere talkers to cultivating doers, particularly in technology and STEM fields, to ensure sustainable industrialization and modernization in Africa.

In the same vein, Botswana’s Minister of Communications, Knowledge, and Technology, Thulaganyo Merafe Segokgo, pointed out that technology and innovation have the potential to significantly boost Africa’s transformation while ensuring an eco-friendly future for the continent. He noted that Botswana has made good strides in building a “digital infrastructure that leaves no one behind.”

The forum was a convergence point for public-private partnerships, with tech giants like Google leading the charge, illustrating the collaborative efforts needed to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

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