Meetings have been held, seminars have been hosted, communiqués have been issued, but it appears that the face of things in Africa remains the same, if not deteriorating. We believe it is high time to take the bull by the horns and exert the force that will take Africa from its current inertia and place it on the path of action and relevance.
Globalization is breaking down the walls that divide continents and nations, and if Africa does not rise to the opportunities held out by information and communication technologies (ICTs), the digital divide will only get wider. With this in mind, we raise our voice as the young people of Africa, as the link between today and tomorrow; one voice that calls for urgent action and not empty boasts and intimidating statistics. THIS VOICE SAYS ...
... ON EDUCATION
Since education is undeniably the bedrock of any economy, we recommend that ICT education should be given the highest priority through the integration of ICTs into our school and university curricula, the establishment of high-quality and accessible ICT training centres, scholarships for ICTrelated studies, intensive ICT literacy campaigns in rural areas, and synergy between educational institutions and the industry to generate relevant research and development efforts aimed at producing innovative ICT solutions.
Government- and business-funded communication centres should be established in under-developed areas. Training and development can be used in education to encourage the use of ICTs. An integral part of training is therefore to introduce the trainers to new technologies and raise awareness of how ICTs could enhance our lives.
We also commit ourselves to this same cause by educating our colleagues in order to create a generation of African young people with an appropriate attitude towards the continent and its development.
... ON TECHNOLOGY
As a valid member of the global community, Africa must endeavour to give greater attention to technology through youth-led skills initiatives. We will do this (with the support of our governments, ITU, the private sector and other concerned bodies) by transferring ICT knowledge to underserved communities. Innovative solutions that are specific to Africa should be encouraged and an incubation system that promotes emerging entrepreneurs should be set up.
... ON PROMOTING PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT
We believe that development will help change the face of things on our continent. Human resource development is not negotiable for any group of people, and this, we believe, must enjoy a high level of consideration. The
brain drain can be reduced by promoting some form of brain circulation within the continent through regional cooperation. Our governments must invest in basic infrastructure to enable rural access so that we can bridge the digital divide that exists within the borders of our nations.
It is important that research be done prior to any implementation. We need to find out what the real needs of Africa are before we can adopt any technology; in other words, we must produce African solutions for African problems.
We commit ourselves to using ICTs as a tool to promote peace, friendship, democracy, justice and love throughout the African continent. And we call upon our leaders to do likewise.
... ON INVESTMENT, POLICY AND REGULATION
An open environment that is conducive to investment would go a long way towards helping Africa's ICT sector. Liberalization and fair competition, tax breaks, low tariffs and other incentives would make for a higher level of investment in the African economy. We also believe that something must be done to ensure that regulatory bodies remain independent from external influences.
... ON DEVELOPING A REGIONAL NETWORK
We believe that the ITU Youth Forum should continue, given the multifaceted impact it has on the continent. The regional meetings (Africa 2001, Asia 2002 and Americas 2002) should culminate in the global meeting (World 2003) which will host the different youth groups from each region. The world conference in 2003 will be a good opportunity for the youth of Africa, Asia and the Americas to meet and chart paths for achieving a global impact.
We will set up the Africa Youth Initiative for ICT Development and will be young ITU ambassadors in our own countries. A website will be set up to serve as a basis for our work.
We therefore appeal to ITU to:
assist us with the network so that we can remain connected;
encourage our respective governments to create national youth forums which will be used to promote ICTs among young people in our own countries;
create a coordinating office within ITU to assist our Africa Youth Initiative.
... and, in CONCLUSION
We hope that we have left behind us footprints which can help relay a message of active involvement to tomorrow's youth and the youth of other regions. We know that the future belongs to us, and we will start to build it now. We are confident that our continent will be reborn, and will work to make the African Renaissance a shared reality.