Dr Amr Talaat, Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, has announced plans to provide more than 60m people in rural areas with high-speed internet under an ambitious drive to unlock new pathways for economic growth.
Speaking at the Egypt – International Cooperation Forum (Egypt-ICF) in Cairo, Talaat said the initiative is part of a nationwide effort to develop the digital economy and drive job creation.
Egypt has already invested more than $2bn to increase average internet speed in major cities from 6.5 to 42.5 megabytes per second – a sevenfold increase in two years. The country will continue to upgrade its metropolitan internet infrastructure to level up its economy.
Also speaking during the workshop entitled ‘The Demographic Divide: Youth and Innovation for Transforming Africa,’ Dr Rania A. Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, added: “Africa is considered the youngest continent on the planet, with around 60% of its population under the age of 25. There is no more urgent or important topic than youth empowerment, entrepreneurship and digital innovation. Creating a framework to support the young is vital; Africa’s future depends on it.”
In a pre-recorded message to the Egypt-ICF workshop, Vint Cerf, Vice President of Google, called on Africa to turn “digital technology into digital opportunity” by upskilling youth in order to drive GDP growth that raises living standards.
He stated: “This is a time of unprecedented challenge – a pandemic, climate change and a host of other issues lie before us. But there is also opportunity. However, the technologies that offer the most potential will deliver little value if we do not have trained, skilled, thoughtful and creative people driving applications and new business models to take advantage of the digital infrastructure. The internet will not work well if it is not surrounded by talented people and a cooperative environment of like-minded countries.”
Examining ways to help Africa achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Frederika Meijer, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Egypt, remarked: “If you want balanced economic and population growth, you need to invest in women and ensure they stay in education for as long as possible. There is a huge gender divide in internet access. There’s also a rural-urban divide as well as a divide between the rich and the poor. We need to close these gaps and ensure everyone has equitable access to the internet. Financial institutions need to provide innovative financing solutions to young people, especially women. If we address these issues, then we can ensure a bright future for Africa.”
Held under the patronage of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of Egypt, the two-day hybrid event aimed to mobilise the global development community and assert its collective commitment to sustainable development as a catalyst for the post-pandemic economic recovery.