Digitalizing Migration Response to Harness Africa’s Economic Development and Demographic Dividend in the Covid-19 Era

Addis Ababa- The COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it has brought, has resulted in the adaptation of more digitalized workforces, businesses and trade services. The increase of online operations has also exposed the need to invest in and adopt new and diversified skills, especially in the technology sector, in order to cope with the transforming dynamics and the emergence of a new mode of operationalization.

With this in the background, IOM Ethiopia held a side event, “Digitalizing Migration Response To Harness Africa’s Economic Development And Demographic Dividend In The Covid-19 Era” during the 53rd Session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

Targeting a wide range of experts and stakeholders, including: Ministers/ Officials responsible for migration and development, policymakers, economic and migration experts, the African Union Commission, private sector and the diplomatic community, the side event offered a platform for reflection and consensus building on measures that could be taken to adequately harness Africa’s industrialization and economic diversification, through a migration lens and in consideration of movements induced by climate change.

“Digital connectivity affects every aspect of migration: providing access to pre-migration information, during journeys and in destination countries; facilitating remittances; and keeping migrants connected with their families back home and communities in their host countries,” said Maureen Achieng, Chief of Mission to Ethiopia and Representative to the Africa Union and UNECA, during her opening remarks.  

The discussion also highlighted the fact that the global pandemic reminded about an acute problem in digital inequality. Internet penetration in Africa currently stands at 21.8% of the population. Contrarily, today more than 80% of African population has a mobile phone subscription, showing how essential the digital economy is becoming.

Access to electricity should also not be overlooked, as it is the first requirement for digitization, and with only close to half of Africa currently having consistent access to electricity at home, more investments are needed in this area. Nonetheless, Africa is the least connected region in the world, with about 28.2 % internet coverage and 34 % to mobile broadband. African countries must make efforts to accelerate digital security frameworks and policies. Rapid digitalization will require upskilling and reskilling efforts, among other things, as digital skills are increasingly required; low and medium skill jobs will be hit by digitalization the most.

In line with migration processes, COVID-19 responses and policies will need to promote Africa’s economic resilience in consideration of this changing dynamics, especially focusing on the production and availability of data, skills development, recognition and partnerships, digitalization of migration, green energy and the sustainability of an industrialized continent, leveraging the African young population.

For more information, contact Kaye Viray, IOM Ethiopia: [email protected].