African women more and more “connected”
In Africa, women are still largely outside the digital revolution. Companies such as Orange, associations like Women of Uganda and foundations like Children of Africa, created by the first Ivorian lady, Dominique Nouvian Ouattara, bring solutions.
“Women are the forgotten of digital in Africa”. This is the sad fact that Catherine Reichert, vice-president of communication of the UN Women’s France Committee, makes. Already “heavily affected by poverty, climate change, lack of care, violence and economic crises”, women are also “the main discriminated against in access to education, training and the internet” regrets the expert in digital communication strategy.
However, despite an Internet penetration rate still low (34% against 80% in Europe), Africa is the continent with the fastest growth rate of Internet users in the world (20% per year according to the “Global Digital Report 2018”). As a result, the continent is becoming more and more involved in the digital revolution, and could become one of the rise of the digital sphere.
This is great news … for African men. According to the figures of the International Telecommunication Union, only 18.6% of women have access to the internet in Africa, against 24.9% of men. They may thus be penalized by the many changes in the labor market.
As Babacar Kane, General Manager for West Africa at the IBM Francophone Center, reminds us, rapid developments in IT, social networks, the Internet of Things and the processing of massive data have led to the creation of many new jobs. But they will also be responsible for the disappearance of “nearly half of the existing trades today”.
Inclusion and empowerment
In this context, access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics training will be the key to enabling young Africans to acquire the skills they will need to succeed.
Only, as UNESCO points out, “girls are always the first to be denied the right to education despite the progress made over the last 20 years”, and the “division of labor between the sexes in turn contributes to perpetuate sexual inequalities in work and in society in general “.
The digital is yet “a great accelerator of female entrepreneurship and a powerful vector of inclusion and empowerment of women,” insists Catherine Reichert. Democratized, technology could enable women to “break their geographical isolation or the grip of certain social or cultural practices that limit them to roles”.
A conviction that already motivates a number of actors to act to promote the place of women in digital. In Senegal, Orange supports the Linguère Digital Challenge, a prestigious competition that rewards the best start-ups founded by women.
Women of Uganda and Children of Africa, civil society mobilizes
In Uganda, the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) works for the development of women’s use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as tools for “sharing information and collectively addressing issues” . The association has set itself the goal of building a society “in which women are empowered through the use of ICTs”.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the Children of Africa Foundation is behind many projects aimed at improving access to education and new technologies for young Ivorians. Founded by Dominique Nouvian Ouattara, the country’s first lady, Children of Africa celebrated her 20th birthday this year. Present in 12 African countries, the foundation builds, rehabilitates and equips school infrastructures. It also conducts field programs such as bookmobiles, school kit distribution, the setting up of libraries and especially multimedia centers, and computer and didactic equipment for public primary and secondary schools. A way to introduce young boys – and girls – to the world of computers and the internet.
Concrete actions that change the lives of many young people while helping to transform the continent’s economy. According to Intel’s “Women and the Web” report, women’s access to the Internet would bring 18 billion of GDP to developing countries. For the period 2015-2020, the inclusion of women would represent an economic growth of 170 billion dollars in emerging countries.