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ICT in Africa – a job-motor for rural youth?
According to the social media platform Hootsuite, 996 million Africans use mobile internet services – that’s 81 per cent of the African population. During 2016, social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter reported growth of 47 per cent, or 48 million new African users.
Increasing online networking also gives Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH direct access to people, and particularly young people in rural areas, who are crowding into the African labour markets in search of jobs.
ICT in rural areas
In rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is still one of the most important sources of income. For young people, it is particularly attractive if digital information and communications technologies (ICT) are used.
To discuss the possibilities of digital solutions for rural development and share knowledge and experience, a workshop ‘Promoting youth employment by digital solutions in rural development – examples from different countries and projects’ was held in May 2017 within the framework of the GIZ Sector Network Rural Development Africa Conference.
Participants were given an overview of the ICT solutions for agriculture (ICT4Ag) available at GIZ and elsewhere. Three GIZ examples from practice were presented:
- the smartphone app ‘Plantix’, which enables women farmers in Tunisia to recognise plant diseases at an early stage to prevent harvest losses;
- tips on better agricultural production techniques for small-scale farmers in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire, using short 3D videos which can be sent via WhatsApp (and other apps);
- in Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso digital solutions by the Africa Rice Centre for improving the rice value chain have been available for several years under the Competitive African Rice Initiative: the presentation covered the use of the smartphone app ‘RiceAdvice’.
Example: Use of ICT at the Green Innovation Centre in Benin
To improve job prospects for rural youth, the Green Innovation Centre (CIVA) in Benin is investing in practical learning experience in the agricultural sector, in close cooperation with the AfricaRice research institute. How is this being implemented? The Green Innovation Centre is following an exciting ICT-based approach to promote young people as service providers. Three modules are planned:
1. E-learning and network for young people:
The Moodle e-learning platform offers young graduates of agricultural colleges further education courses on agricultural topics. The courses are developed together with agricultural experts from Benin, and designed so that graduates can follow the courses on smartphones. As support, they can also take advantage of the expertise and internet access of professional agricultural centres in 21 local authorities in Benin.
2. E-training for practical vocational experience:
Of over 250 active users of the e-learning courses, 127 were selected for an eight-month programme focused on the agricultural practice of young people. Successful graduates of the programme can advise over 300 groups of farmers as service providers. The groups then have an opportunity to test innovative techniques. An interactive online wiki ensures sharing of information and communication between all those involved.
3. E-coaching for business development:
The young adults will develop their own business models, with support from the Green Innovation Centre in the first phase.
With this ICT-based approach, the Green Innovation Centre in Benin and AfricaRice are not only promoting vocational experience and new business models, but also improving market access and faster dissemination of agricultural innovations for small-scale farmer households. It enables actors to network better in order to further expand the range of services offered by young people, and to respond adequately and quickly to the changing needs of small-scale farmers.