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Thursday, Feb 20th

Youth can lead Africa's exploration of digital opportunities

Youth can lead Africa's exploration of digital opportunities

Africa's young population, in comparison with other continents, can be leveraged to develop world leading technological and scientific innovation according to Kenya-based digital artist Jepchumba, founder of the African Digital Art project.

Speaking at the Fak'ugesi Digital Innovation Festival in Johannesburg this week, Jepchumba said "We actually don't realise that we are on the cusp of a new world that we have not seen before because Africa is the youngest continent on this planet. More than seventy percent of us are under the age of 15. This generation can take inspiration from this and design a world in which they want to live."

This demographic dividend has been confirmed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Centre and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in their 2017 African Economic Outlook.

According to the Outlook, ICT and the creative use of the internet can help those looking to begin their own businesses overcome challenges, including limited access to financial assets.

Jepchumba's suggested that young Africans reconsider some of the established uses of technology.

"I think it is important for us to explore, innovate and change not only the way we understand technology and its everyday uses, but also the way we design our computers. We need to design a computer that reflects the African mind and that could mean that we abandon the 'qwerty' layout for example. We also need to use technology to be language generators. Eighty percent of the internet is in English. That scares me because thinking in one language affects your imagination and the way you understand the world as well as concepts like time, space and human connection."

Jepchumba believes the opportunity to exploit the potential of ICT and the internet is linked to modifying the education system to one that prioritises the discovery of new ideas from an early age.

The 2017 Africa Economic Outlook forecasts that Africa's population, which currently stands at 1.2 billion people, will double by 2050.

This increase will result in Africa becoming home to 38 of the 40 youngest countries in the world, according to the Report, which also positions innovation and entrepreneurship as tools to broaden access to social human development services – much like mobile telephone services has done for disadvantaged communities, for example.


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