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Remarks by Dr. Judith Rodin at the World Economic Forum Africa on Digital Jobs Africa

Thank you all for being here.

I am delighted to be at the World Economic Forum Africa conference with leaders from across the continent—there is no better place to announce the official launch of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Digital Jobs Africa Initiative, a nearly $100 million investment to reach 1 million lives through digital jobs for low-income, high-potential African youth.

In just a few days, the Rockefeller Foundation will mark our 100th birthday. Founded by oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, we opened our doors in 1913 with the mission to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. It would be only a matter of years before we would begin our work with Africa, an enduring partnership that continues into our second century.

Clearly the Africa of today is much different than the Africa we began our work in nearly 100 years ago.

We see three seismic shifts impacting the continent:

For one, our world is much more globalized—and our challenges are more interconnected, more dynamic, and more complex than ever before.

For another, our world is much more urban than it was 100 years ago. For the first time, a majority of people live in cities. Some of the most rapid increases in urban population have been seen right here in Africa, stretching infrastructure, water and energy resources, housing, and employment to their seams.

Third, we are now living in a digital world. The metric is simply mind-boggling when you look at it: 2.5 quintillion bytes of data exist in the world today, 90 percent of it created in the last two years alone.We see no signs of reaching a peak anytime soon.

At the same time, Africa’s youth population is expected to double 400 million by 2045. By 2050, Africa is going to have a working-age population that exceeds China and India.

The convergence of these trends—globalization, urbanization, digitization, along with the youth bulge here in Africa, presents us with both challenges and opportunities.

Challenges, because despite bright economic spots across the continent, the current pace of job creation in Africa is insufficient to meet the demands of a growing youth population.

Opportunities, because the dramatic growth of the information communications technology sector, driven by this digital revolution, offers a unique moment to create sustainable jobs and train young people to do them. These are youth who may otherwise be left out of the labor market.

And that’s the impetus, the opportunity, for Digital Jobs Africa, which, as I said, is a nearly $100 million investment to reach 1 million lives through digital jobs for low-income, high-potential African youth.

The Rockefeller Foundation has done a good deal of research and laid the groundwork for this initiative over the last three years. Based on these efforts, we’ve identified six countries where we believe we can have the greatest impact: Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and Morocco, South Africa, and Ghana.

Our initiative will have three components: jobs, training, and coordination.

First, we will work to create new jobs in three ways:

  • One, catalyzing the socially responsible arm of the business process outsourcing industry to employ individuals who would not otherwise have an opportunity for sustainable employment. We call this Impact Sourcing.
  • Second, we will leverage the rising demand from African-based companies, from governments moving to e-government using digital tools, and from multinational corporations, to create sustainable employment opportunities, which is a win-win for all, cutting business costs in many cases by 40 percent, while increasing incomes for workers by 40 to 200 percent.
  • Third, we will explore additional digital job opportunities that the booming ICT sector might create, whether it’s the next big development in mobile health or a new innovation in business that requires thousands of digitally-trained workers to support and execute.

In the second component, skills development and training for young people, we will help them acquire the skills needed for digital jobs, as well as support training programs driven by the needs and opportunities that already exist in the private sector.

In the third component, we will work to create an enabling environment for the creation of digital jobs by fostering greater, more effective coordination among the key players—businesses, training providers, governments and non-profits. That’s why we chose to make this announcement here at the World Economic Forum—what better platform to launch collective, cross-sector action around a shared opportunity?

Our goal is to ultimately work ourselves out of a job, and create an environment where philanthropy is no longer needed.

We will measure success by the number of young people who are employed in ICT-related jobs and the multiplier effect they’ll create to generate access to opportunity for their families and communities. We’ve set ourselves a goal to impact at least 1 million people in seven years.

As we look to our second century, we see Digital Jobs Africa as an opportunity to ensure that the next generation, and the generation after that, has opportunities to make a good living, and live a good life, in this global, urban, and digital age.