ICT to the Rescue: Fostering GDP Growth and Employment Opportunities

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By Kingsley Okeke

About 30 years ago, you may be right to have used Stone Age as a byword for Africa in relation to ICT growth and internet penetration. Since various countries in the continent took its first baby step in the continent in the 90s, it has been steady growth all the way.

The continent has become the choice destination for witty inventions propelled by the internet age-largely championed by the continent’s young and upwardly mobile population. With the world’s largest reserve of young people, put at 60% within the ages of 18-35, the continent is poised to lead the next phase of global growth in ICT. Nigeria will no doubt serve as the epic center for much of the growth, looking at the “Mobile Miracle,” and the steady growth in the numbers of those with access to the internet. It can be said and rightly too, that, there are more Nigerians with mobile phones than there are those with access to potable water.


Young Nigerians are building mega businesses and attracting venture capitalists from around the world, thanks to the growth of the ICT sector in the country. With over $70 million in investment fund available to its founders, Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Afaedor, Jumia is no doubt a classic example of how ICT is transforming the business landscape in Nigeria and the continent at large. The online mall and retail solutions provider were patterned along amazon.com; ebay.com  and controls about 70 percent of the online retail market in the country and has serviced about half a million customers in its two years of existence, in addition to being independently ranked as second only to Google for preferred online shopping in Nigeria. Jumia is just one among the many success stories that have come out of the growth of the ICT sector in Nigeria and the continent at large.


Available statistics have shown that internet penetration has been growing steadily in the last 10 years with prospects of even greater speed by 2020.


ICT, therefore, appears to have come to the rescue of the country’s ballooning unemployment rate.

Some analysts have maintained that the growing number of young people in the continent remains a ticking bomb if there are no commensurate job spaces created to absorb the population.

According to a note released by the world bank in 2013, Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are transforming the world of work, creating new job opportunities and making labor markets more innovative, inclusive, and global. In the words of  Chris Vein, World Bank Chief Innovation Officer for Global ICT Development, “ICTs are influencing employment both as an industry that creates jobs and as a tool that empowers workers to access new forms of work, in new and more flexible ways,”. He further added that “The emerging ICT-enabled employment opportunities matter because countries around the world are looking to create more good jobs, which have positive economic and social implications for workers and for society.”

African Leaders should therefore as a matter of urgency look to ICT for succor as continent races to close the unemployment gap.

Kenya is an example of one of the countries in the continent with very high prospect for ICT inspired job growth, giving the country’s track-record for yielding groundbreaking innovations.


The Rockefeller Foundation recently convened a roundtable discussion in the country’s capital, Nairobi, to discuss the opportunities for job creation for the country’s high potential but disadvantaged youth through information communication technology (ICT) enabled work. The roundtable was the fourth in a series of roundtables that U.S. based organization would be convening in each of its six target countries to help identify innovative ways to tackle youth unemployment as part of the Foundation’s recently launched Digital Jobs Africa initiative.

While this was not the first time that industry players discussed the opportunities for job creation in the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) sector which is still nascent, supporting an estimated 7,000 seats but has an expected growth of 40 percent, it certainly is part of steps towards unlocking the potentials in the industry.

In Kenya, the momentum is high to finally capitalize on the country’s comparative advantages, as the country is already home to a number of mission-driven BPOs such as Digital Divide Data, Samasource, and Daproim Africa who are providing jobs and skills development for disadvantaged but high potential Kenyan youth.

Leaders in the continent can, therefore, take a cue from what is happening in the east African country, and put their various countries on the path of growth and prosperity.

The continent’s leaders can provide the much-needed infrastructure and favorable policies that would create the enabling environment for young people to innovate unhindered.

In the words of Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame who was among the seven presidents that spoke during the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali in 2013; “The Digital Revolution that has the power to transform societies is already underway. Success belongs to those who innovate & seize available opportunities.” President Kagame did capture the huge importance of investing in ICT today to leap-frog the continent’s growth for today and the future.

Technology is opening up new opportunities. African youths must be equipped to help in creating the much-needed employment through ICT. Investing in ICT is not a luxury but a necessity.

In Rwanda for instance and according to the president, ICT is seen as a utility like the same way, water is seen as well as electricity. Over there It’s not just about making commitments, but about giving ICT its rightful place.

If we must achieve the desired goal of placing African on the global ICT mark thereby using it as a major tool for job creation, earmarking investment for ICT is not enough, we have to decide that we are going to do it!

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