Speaking at the recently held Mo Ibrahim Governance Week, Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, highlighted the importance of coding education for Africa. Adesina further emphasized the need for Africans to embrace technology, and that governments must urgently move away from investing in the jobs of the past, but rather in the jobs of the future.

Adesina was part of a discussion panel titled "The New Tech Era: Job-killer or Job-creator?" which was organized by Africa Report and Jeune Afrique as part of the 2019 Mo Ibrahim Governance Week.

“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 democratize technology,” said Adesina.

Adesina was joined on the panel by Pascal Lamy, board Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and past Director-General of the World Trade Organization; 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.

Africa and the 4th Industrial Revolution

Adesina's comments come at a time when many policymakers in Africa are slowly starting to realize the importance of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the opportunities and potential threats they present. Recently, Egypt's Minister of ICT had to reassure stakeholders in the northern African country that the 4th Industrial Revolution does not pose a threat to jobs but rather people need to adjust their education and skills to be suitable for the jobs of the future.

In his welcome remarks, 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.”

Panelists 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.

Research has shown that if governments harness the full economic potential of just the internet, Africa could add $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 democratize technology. Africa should prepare itself. Digital technologies, including Artificial intelligence, big data analytics, blockchains, 3D printing, are already upon us,” concluded Adesina.

Cover image credit: Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank. Mo Ibrahim Foundation

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