On Human Rights Day, a recently published pan-African survey of young people finds that the vast majority (78%) believe that access to Wi-Fi and Internet connectivity should be a fundamental human right, while over eight in ten (81%) indicated that it is “…technology that will change the fortunes of Africa”.
These findings ultimately suggest that the continent’s next generation not only readies to fully embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), but that they are adamant that Africa’s political leaders must take ownership of this responsibility to maintain both their nation’s civil discourse and the continent’s trajectory.
These and other revelations stem from the inaugural African Youth Survey (AYS), a study conducted by PSB Research (part of WPP Group) and commissioned by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation (IFF), encapsulating the attitudes, opinions, concerns and ambitions of 4,200 persons (aged 18 to 24) from the major urban centres of 14 sub-Saharan African nations, including Congo Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Among other conclusions in the survey were the findings that over one-tenth (12%) polled viewed the “Digital Revolution” as one of the most important events or developments taking place in the last five years on the continent; in Rwanda, nearly one fifth (19%) believe the digital revolution has had the greatest impact on Africa; in Zimbabwe, nearly one quarter (22%) agreed.
However, despite 63% of those polled believe that their country is steadily creating access to the digital economy, only 57% of those in Southern Africa were found to be satisfied with their access to technology and Internet connectivity. Across the entire African Youth Survey, over a third (32%) of interviewees suggested they still lack “regular, private access to the Internet (workplace excluded),” a circumstance found to be the most acute among respondents living in Congo-Brazzaville (51%), Togo (53%) and Ethiopia (56%).
On Human Rights Day and against the backdrop of a month-long conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, which has already displaced almost 1 million people and strained local humanitarian efforts, traditional tenets of human rights such as tolerance were also found to be prevalent in Africa’s next generation.
The vast majority (72%) polled agreed with the statement, “…my country has a moral obligation to help refugees from neighboring countries, regardless of their [economic] impact”, three-quarters polled (75%) believed that “their country belongs to all who reside in it” and further, 85% sided with the statement that “…everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.”
Even so, the enthusiasm showcased on Human Rights Day by African youth for the digital economy and digital technology to play a role in accelerating the continent’s development is encouraging and deserves a response from policymakers across Africa, the sponsor of the survey suggests.
“Talk of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s potential must not simply be theoretical; it should be a principal focus for governments,” said South African industrialist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Founder and Executive Chairman of the Ichikowitz Foundation, Ivor Ichikowitz. “It’s all in the numbers – Africa is already the world’s youngest continent. Over 60% of our continent’s population is under the age of 25, one of the only regions in the world where that demographic is steadily increasing. As many of these countries transition their economies away from reliance on raw material exports toward digital services and value-added production, it will be essential that training and access to technology for our next-generation workforce, our continent’s future entrepreneurs and self-starters be significantly increased.”
“By assessing the pain-points indicated by this survey and emphasizing expanding broadband access, advancing digital literacy, and improving technological expertise, greater numbers of African youth will be able to take part in the global economy and in the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). To maintain the status quo, however, will not only ignore a demographic steadily rising to soon rival the entire population of Europe but in the mindset of that population, be deemed a violation of their human rights by their governments.”
“It’s increasingly evident that Africa’s next generation of political leaders, civil servants, entrepreneurs, and consumers are ready to capitalize on the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Ichikowitz concluded. “On Human Rights Day, it’s up to our leaders to listen”.
The Ichikowitz Family Foundation has published the full findings of the survey with the hope of providing useful data in informing and designing improved social policy and corporate social responsibility initiatives. The organization plans to administer and publish the survey on an annual basis for the foreseeable future.