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Young African girls innovating to tackle climate change

Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Acting Executive Secretary, Antonio Pedro. PHOTO/ECA


More than 50 young women engineers and innovators across the continent have developed technologies to fight climate change and build resilience, Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Acting Executive Secretary, Antonio Pedro has revealed.

This comes at a time when Africa and rest of the world is grappling with the adverse effects of climate change and adaptation.

Under the initiative’ Connected African Girls Coding Camp and Climate Change Adaptation Hackathon’, young engineers and innovators have devised creative projects that incorporated emerging technologies to fight climate change and build resilience across the continent.

Mr Pedro was in Niamey, Niger, on 1 March during an Innovation Fair and Award ceremony at the 9th Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, which saw 25 young women recognized for their exceptional skills in robotics and IOT, animation, gaming, web development, 3D printing and Turtle Stich.

Mr Pedro explained that the Commission would like to see more women who are self-aware, eager to learn about their communities and capable of leading the change they wish to see in society. He pointed out that ECA would not only want to produce future scientists who can contribute to the fourth industrial revolution but also instill confidence in young women.

Mr Pedro said the ‘Connected African Girls initiative was created to reduce the digital gender gap by equipping young African women with the necessary basic skills to achieve long term success in digital education, employment and entrepreneurship.

This is done through creating an enabling environment for collaborative efforts and innovation. He reaffirmed that gender equality was a fundamental human rights issue as it catalyses multiple effects on socio-economic development.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Regional Director for Africa Anne-Rachel Inne. PHOTO/ITU

The Acting Executive Secretary further indicated that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector played a pivotal role in promoting gender equality and women empowerment as stated in the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDGs).

He pointed out that nearly 90 percent of jobs in the near future would require skills related to new technologies.

“It is unthinkable that in Africa, the digital revolution will take place without young people and women,” Mr Pedro said.

In view of this, Mr Pedro said about 108 Nigerien girls aged between 12 and 25 were trained in person and over 4,500 participated virtually. The Camps trained in technical disciplines ranging from web development, gaming, robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing as well as soft skills.

“Today, Nigerien trainees have produced 25 projects and created impressive digital innovations to tackle local sustainability issues, using what they have learnt in the span of only one week,” said Mr Pedro.

The projects, he added, address issues around conflict, safety and security, climate change, agriculture, education, road safety, water and sanitation, child marriage among others.

Speaking at the same event, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Regional Director for Africa Anne-Rachel Inne, said she was impressed by the technology and innovation developed by young women.

Ms Inne indicated that it was important to forge partnerships that would see technologies and innovation deployed to the rural areas where people needed these devices the most.

“Most of our population in general is rural. In majority of our countries, about 60 to 80 percent of the population is rural. If you are going to take technology that doesn’t mean anything to them then you have a problem in appropriation. You have a problem in making it work and making it sustainable,” she said.

Ms Inne emphasized on the need to keep these applications simple for rural communities, stating that they have to be in a language that was applicable to that particular population.

She said the young people also needed to ensure that their creativity was protected through intellectual property laws in order to preserve them and earn value for the designs or applications.

Ms Inne urged the young innovators to ensure that their products are marketable, as that’s the only way they’ll add value.

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