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UN ECA partners with Google to accelerate Africa's digital transformation, focusing on skills, startups, financial inclusion, and cybersecurity. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Google LLC (Google) have signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to foster and accelerate digital transformation in Africa on the margins of the 2024 edition of the Africa Business Forum

The partnership is founded on the complementary expertise and strengths of both parties who wish to collaborate on activities to support ECA’s mandate such as digital development in Africa in line with the African Union Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2030) and Google’s Digital Sprinters Framework, and to leverage the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the benefit of Africa’s digital economy. As a general framework for collaboration, the MoU will seek to further explore specific key areas of interest pertaining to digital skills development for Africa's burgeoning young population, startup development, increasing financial inclusion, strengthening cybersecurity and online safety measures, and advancing AI policy research for policymakers on the continent.

ECA’s executive secretary, Claver Gatete, acknowledged Google’s pivotal role in improving Africa’s connectivity infrastructure, supporting Africa’s innovators and entrepreneurs, and building digital capacity in emerging technologies through skills development for researchers, students and educators.

"This partnership holds the potential to produce significant and influential outcomes in tackling digital challenges and narrowing the digital divide across the African continent," Gatete remarked.

Africa, with the lowest internet penetration rate globally, sees 63% of its population without internet access. The ECA is committed to closing digital divides by promoting infrastructure development and affordability, sound regulatory environment, and fostering digital skills.

To tap into Africa's digital transformation potential to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063, it is crucial that the continent's youth — projected to account for nearly half of the global youth population by 2030 — are prepared for a digital future and the 4th Industrial Revolution.