Although the world is in a digital age, a majority of African youth are left out of this digital revolution and are unable to tap into the numerous benefits associated with it. A 2020 UNICEF report showed that only 7% of African households have access to a computer at home and less than 8% of students are computer literate or have the skills to operate a computer. In the West African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, the figures are even lower, with <5% of young people lacking basic computer skills.
Limited computer knowledge is precipitated by the lack of access to computers and training opportunities. Families living in extreme poverty do not have computers at home, and only a few elite private schools have computer labs. Generally, schools have a desire to install computer labs and frequently have a classroom for this purpose, but lack the upfront implementing costs. Outside of school, young people interested in enrolling in private computer schools are required to pay hefty and unaffordable fees, thereby making these solutions unattainable.
Computer literacy is recognized as an important skill to facilitate learning in all subject areas, employment, technological innovation, and entrepreneurship. It is also highlighted as one of the most critical tools to ensure growth and development in Africa. The Brookings Institute notes “the spread of digital technologies can empower the poor with access to information, job opportunities and services that improve their standard of living. This in turn stabilizes vulnerable democracies.
Young adults should be the primary recipients of computer knowledge and skills. This is especially true in Africa, where youth make up 60% of the population (Winthrop & Ziegler, 2020). Despite this, African educational systems are simply not doing enough to meet the demand for digital skills training, and this neglect places the entire continent at a grave disadvantage.
Although there have been some policy pushes and recognition of the need to include computers in Africa’s developmental strategy, there has been very limited rollout of computer training programs in schools–partly because of resource limitations, the high cost setting up computer programs, the lack of adequate funding from governments and the absence of a holistic and integrated vision and strategy.