On 8 February, EIF organised a debate, hosted by MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho, on how to improve the partnership between EU and Africa when it comes to education, digital learning and skills. The MEP was joined by the following guest speakers:
- Asma Ennaifer, Director of CSR, Communication and Orange Digital Center, Orange Africa and Middle East
- Toni Kaatz-Dubberke, Project Lead Strategic Alliance Orange Digital Center, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
- Siobhan Lynch, Program Director, iMlango
- Kiarie Kamau, Managing Director & CEO, East African Educational Publishers Limited
- Kirsten Van Camp, Policy Officer Digital Education, DG INTPA, European Commission
Maria da Graça Carvalho MEP highlighted three topics that she considers crucial from her professional and political experience when it comes to improving the partnership between EU and Africa: (1) the importance of capacity building, (2) the need to improve ICT skills and (3) the role of women. There is a proverb in Africa: “If you educate the men, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.” And this is true here in Europe, but also in Africa.
Asma Ennaifer outlined some of Orange’s CSR strategy key tools to strengthen the digital skills for the empowerment of youth, women and children in rural and urban areas, and to democratize the access to the internet through inclusive smartphones. One of them is Orange Digital Centre, an innovative ecosystem that goes from training and coaching on soft and hard skills to startup support, acceleration, and investment.
Ms. Ennaifer insisted on the importance of having private-public partnership with governments, universities, NGOs, technology partners; “only together, we will be able to meet the tremendous challenge of digital transition.”
Toni Kaatz-Dubberke highlighted some examples of how Orange is contributing to closing the digital divide through digital education and e-learning initiatives in Africa.
Overcoming the digital divide cannot be shouldered by national governments and taxpayers alone; investments and digital skills need a strong involvement of the private sector as well, by cooperating with European and African tech companies in concrete projects.
According to Siobhan Lynch, EU projects such as iMlango play an important role in creating a sustainable future and build into the digital learning for all.
The level of education inequalities is high, but iMlango proved that we can double and almost triple numeracy learning rates and overcome some learning deficits in schools.
Moreover, sustainability is at the heart of every edtech project and education is at the heart of improving the lives of everyone.
Kiarie Kamau, representing book publishers, stressed how in the last five years they have transitioned from a period of only printed format to also digital format. This entails new digital products such as e-books and interactive digital content that target school children as well as the general reader, and which are available on platforms such as The World Reader, the African Books Collective, as well as Amazon.
Sensibilization of all stakeholders on the importance of embracing interactive digital content is key, but needs to be enhanced through more partnerships and collaborations in order to make digital content available.
Kirsten Van Camp reiterated that digitization and education are two important priorities for the European Commission. If we want to reach the full potential of the digital economy, it is key that we recognize the gender disparities.
Ms. Van Camp highlighted the importance of a multi-stakeholder engagement to close the digital divide and tackle challenges, ensuring that the right skills are taught to support and win transition and leverage the full potential of digital for education. We need involvement and commitment of governments and administrations of civil society, private sector, academia, because each of these have a role to play in ensuring that digital education is equally accessible and contributes to sustainable development.