Partnership To Transform Africa’s Digital Footprint, Connect One Billion People To The Internet

Published 26 days ago
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The Partnership for Digital Access in Africa (PDAA) was launched recently in Washington, D.C. in the United States, following President Joe Biden’s 2022 launch of a new initiative, Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) and Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent Call to Action.

“Only 40% of Africans are currently connected to the internet versus 68% globally,” says PDAA Interim-CEO Ibrahima Guimba-Saïdou.

“With respect to women and girls, the goal is to increase connectivity from 30% to 80%. I am confident that PDAA, in collaboration with our partners, will dynamically transform Africa’s digital footprint.”

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The partnership brings together private and public sector leaders like the World Bank Group, M-KOPA, Nokia, Smart Africa, African Leadership Group, LifeHikes, America’s Frontier Fund (AFF), and SpaceX, alongside influential champions like former President of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and NBA superstar, philanthropist and entrepreneur, Shaquille O’Neal.

Collectively, these partners are helping PDAA realize its mission to double the number of people connected to the internet in Africa, from the current 500 million to a targeted one billion people by 2030 and three core objectives, including:

  • Expand affordable internet and broadband services: To make the highest performance and lowest cost broadband available to as many Africans as possible;
  • Lower device cost: To improve accessibility by making such accessibility to internet-enabled devices (smartphones) and digital technology more affordable throughout Africa; and
  • Enhance digital skills: To assist in the upskilling of millions of Africans with the necessary capacity to more effectively and efficiently use digital technology.

This announcement comes as President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto of Kenya for a state visit at the White House, last week. The visit marked the 60th anniversary of U.S.-Kenya diplomatic relations and reinforced the strategic partnership between the two nations. It also represented the first state visit by an African leader since 2008.

“President and First Lady Ruto’s visit marks a historic moment in our shared journey towards digital accessibility and affordability. Concurrently, the launch of PDAA is not only timely but crucial, to ensure that we harness the power of digital innovation for the betterment of all Africans – especially women and girls – across the continent,” said PDAA Co-Chair, Sirleaf.

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“In this era of rapid technological advancement, this initiative stands as a beacon of our commitment to inclusive growth for our people. Its importance to achieving our overarching goal of gender parity, including in digital access, further motivates our involvement and participation in the PDAA.”

The economic implications of this endeavor are significant. The results are likely to increase the potential to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars into the annual GDPs of African nations. Along with its enormous potential, achieving this could place Africa at the forefront of global competition, commerce, and inclusive development.

For women and girls in Africa, the disparity —and the opportunity— is even more critical as current data confirms that only two women are connected to the internet for every three men. There has been no improvement in the ratio of women to men utilizing the internet across the African continent over a three-year period.

In Africa, this digital divide has far-reaching implications, affecting access to vital government services, educational opportunities, healthcare, public information, and entrepreneurial prospects for hundreds of millions of people. The lack of affordable access to the internet effectively blocks the gateway to a brighter future for many Africans.

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At the same time, many companies throughout the world understand the commercial potential of increasing access to more users and providing affordable connectivity services to the burgeoning market in Africa. With a projected population of almost 1.7 billion people and projected spending of almost seven trillion U.S. dollars by 2030, Africa’s growth trajectory is remarkably upward-looking.

To that end, across all of its initiatives and with all its partners, PDAA will focus on ensuring gender parity and equity in digital access and connection to the internet.

Increasing the number of women and girls connected and using the internet is crucial to providing them with opportunities for education, employment, entrepreneurship, and social and political participation, but it also can allow them to acquire new skills, address health disparities, and improve the overall quality of life – both for themselves and their families.

PDAA’s collaborative efforts represent an unprecedented opportunity to work with Africa’s leaders to empower the people in Africa, reduce disparities, unlock the continent’s boundless potential, and help reach President Biden’s promise of a Digital Transformation with Africa.

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The rapid development of full digital capacity holds more than a promise for economic growth and job creation; its potential to improve gender equity, healthcare, increased trade among African countries and their global partners, food security, climate action, and cultural advancements is significant, both for the people in Africa and the world.

The time is now. Through partnerships like PDAA, we can break down barriers, bridge divides, and pave the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for Africa and the world.

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