Across Africa, young innovators are spearheading local solutions to pressing issues, directly contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Recent showcases at the SDG Digital event in New York, organized by ITU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), highlighted how digital technologies are propelling progress towards these global goals.
One remarkable initiative, Nigeria's EquipHer4Growth by Herfrica, has empowered over a thousand women in farming and trading with digital skills and devices. Rwanda, a leader in e-waste regulation, presented an e-waste tracking solution as a runner-up.
Notable African innovations like M-Pesa have revolutionized financial inclusion. Furthermore, M-Pesa has enabled millions to participate in the formal economy. Its evolution into a multi-functional super app has disrupted traditional banking, making it a global model for the future of finance.
Zimbabwe's Tafadzwa Muusha's automated smart walking stick aids visually impaired individuals, while Uganda's Denis Ogwang's water monitoring app helps to combat water-borne diseases.
With rapid advancements in digital technology, it's crucial to address social and economic disparities and ensure equitable access to emerging technologies. While AI is poised to add immense value to the global economy, the 2.6 billion people without internet access risk being left behind.
The challenge lies in avoiding further divides in an already unequal digital landscape. The UN system champions equitable and responsible AI use, emphasizing technical, ethical, and human rights safeguards, in aligninment with core UN values of inclusivity.
ITU's AI for Good platform prioritizes inclusive AI implementation over allowing AI to dictate the agenda. Collaborations with various UN agencies and organizations foster an environment where emerging tech is leveraged to tackle global challenges responsibly.
Moreover, Africa's youthful demographic, with 70% under age 30, holds immense potential for the continent's growth. To harness this potential, connectivity is paramount, and closing connectivity gaps is crucial. Currently, only 55% of 15-24-year-olds in Africa are connected, compared to 98% in Europe.
Young people must be at the forefront of co-designing digital solutions. This approach brings fresh perspectives and energy to shape forward-thinking policies. ITU's Youth Strategy, Generation Connect, empowers young people to co-create equitable digital solutions. Additionally, Africa's youth envoys advocate for immediate action on affordable technology access and sustainable financing for digital skills development and entrepreneurship.
By investing in these foundational elements, young Africans can thrive as digital creators, propelling Africa's growth and sustainable development.