Increasing digital access and skills to prepare Djiboutian youths for the digital economy

Sirad films a short presentation on child rights using a smart phone and a smart selfie stick.

In its 2063 Agenda, the African Union states that one of its main aspirations is “an Africa, whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth.” Over the next few decades, us young Africans will play a critical and vital role in the social and economic development of the continent.

Africa is facing a demographic explosion which will see its population double to more than two billion people in the next generation. This is happening in my country Djibouti, which has less than 1 million citizens now. In the digital age that we are living in, it’s imperative to discuss the importance of developing digital skills as a way to create jobs for young people across Africa and here in my home country.

Digital skills are at the heart of this skills revolution with the potential to transform jobs across every sector of the continent’s economy. Djibouti’s economy is not an exception. Digital skills are now recognized as basic skills along with literacy and numeracy skills. For Djiboutian young people, training is urgently required in key areas of the digital economy like coding, artificial intelligence, robotics, and cyber security.  is playing a key role in supporting innovation related partners to roll out digital skills, including its support to Centre de Technologie et d’Innovation pour le Development through the Code for Youth project.

For me digital skills are now the bedrock or cornerstone for driving economic growth, promoting employability, reducing unemployment and poverty, and consequently creating an equitable distribution of resources. Giving youth the education and skills we need remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. Globally, more than 260 million children and youth are not in school (Global Partnership Annual Report 2019). Nearly 60 percent of primary school children in developing countries, Djibouti being the highest fail to achieve minimum proficiency in learning. Adding a new layer of complexity to this challenge, technology is quickly transforming the skills required to compete for jobs and access economic opportunities—as highlighted in the World Bank’s forthcoming report on the changing nature of work.

I am very interested in the digital skills concept, not because I am a digital engagement enthusiast in my past time, but because I think the future of tomorrow’s work is going to be very aligned with technology. In 2017, the World Bank Group launched XL Africa, a new program to support Africa’s top digital entrepreneurs. Out of over 900 applications received for this program, 20 startups were selected and received early-stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million. Out of this project, companies like PesabazaarEdgepoint Digital and Asoko Insight, were born and are now providing fintech, health insurance and data and services for many people. Another company facilitating the creation of jobs through online work is Andela, which has trained 20,000 software programmers across Africa.

Whether Djibouti’s demographic explosion and its fast-growing economy and youth population will become a dividend will depend on what the government and its development partners and experts have to offer. Policies, strategies and programmes must aim to not only equip young people with the digital skills and tools for employment and leadership, but also create an enabling environment for self-employment and enterprise. Governments and its partners must also revise Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) / Technical and Vocational Skills Development (TVSD) provision in terms of aims, investments, programme design and implementation.

Digitization is fostering job creation across the African continent and Djibouti must not be left out. By engaging students early and often, the Djiboutian government and its partners and collaborators must create a workforce that can continue to fuel growth of the economy in a sustainable way.

Towfik Ibrahim, 19, currently a freshman student at university, studying computer science. Towfik enjoys spending much of his time doing street photography and graphic designing. He is passionate about working with his peers in teaching primary school children on the importance of the internet.