The Directorate of Infrastructure at the SADC Secretariat on 19th September 2018 hosted a Dialogue Session for the youth on issues of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) and Transport, as one of the initiatives to operationalise the 38th SADC Theme; Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.
In her opening remarks to the youth under the African Union Youth Club, the Director of Infrastructure Ms. Rosemary Mapolao Mokoena said the meeting with the youth comes at an opportune time as SADC will be hosting the cluster meeting of Ministers responsible for ICT, Meteorology and Transport in Windhoek, Namibia from 24-28 September 2018 under the theme; “Building Infrastructure for Sustaining Development of Women and Youth”.
Ms. Mapolao said, as part of the implementation of the 38th SADC Theme, the SADC Secretariat was mandated to engage and amplify the voices of the Youth in order to enhance their participation in SADC Industrialisation and Sustainable Development.
The Director called for the active involvement of the youth in meeting the targets set by the Broadband Commission of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Some of these targets include, ensuring that, by 2025, 60% of youth and adults achieve at least a minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills and that unconnectedness of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises should be reduced by 50%.
On transport, Ms. Mapolao said the transport supply chain presents a number of opportunities for the youth, citing the opportunities in bringing ICT innovation in road, water, aviation and railway systems and the opportunities availed in transporting raw materials and finished products in the supply chain.
On her part, Regional Coordinator of the African Union Youth Club, Ms. Shamil Tumisang Agosi thanked the SADC Secretariat for providing the youth with the opportunity to present their ideas for consideration by SADC Ministers responsible for ICT and Transport.
Ms. Agosi said the modern digital world calls for a systematic approach to the development and absorption of ICT as a tool for sustainable development. She underscored the need to bring ICT awareness at early stages of primary school education.
She added that, for young entrepreneurs to succeed, ICT services need to be affordable and their innovation nurtured and promoted.
One of the participants, Ms. Kutlo Motshegwa, a student from the University of Botswana commended SADC for the Dialogue Session, saying it provided an opportunity for the youth to make suggestions on critical issues related to ICT and transport.
She said the challenges that the youth face in accessing ICT services in the SADC region require regional solutions because of the interconnectedness of the Member States, enabled by technology and cultural affinities.
The SADC Youth Dialogue was attended by over 50 young people drawn from youth organisations, individuals, fresh graduates, students from universities and colleges, tech-entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises (SMES) based in Botswana.