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Universal access to and adoption of quality internet can only be a first step for African economies to develop their digital potential to boost growth, create jobs and harness the internet’s power for inclusive social development. In addition to closing these infrastructure-related gaps and greater availability of services, African countries and businesses need to invest more strongly in developing the necessary skills and improving conditions for digital entrepreneurs.

These are some of the outcomes of a meeting held by the Government of Morocco and the World Economic Forum on 6 March 2016 in Marrakech. The meeting was hosted by Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy, and participants were high-level representatives of both public and private sector, including Yasser El Kady, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt, and Tahani Abdallah Atia, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Sudan.

“We need to create a new narrative on the opportunities for digital Africa, one where Africa is not just catching up but where we are instead leapfrogging,” said Fadi Chehadé, Chief Executive Officer of ICANN.

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Recognizing the growth opportunities of the digital economy and its potential as a force for positive social change across Africa, the World Economic Forum has developed a multistakeholder community as part of its work on the Future of the Internet that is working with governments across the continent to achieve Internet for All through public-private collaboration. Morocco supports the initiative as part of its commitment to Africa’s development and growth.

Another outcome of the meeting was the agreement to move forward with the creation of a Digital Corps of youth from across Africa. This would be a one year programme to train and empower young people from all over Africa in the areas of technical expertise, advocacy social innovation and entrepreneurship related to information and communications technology with an aim to impact their local communities.

“It is essential that we succeed in making ICT a catalyst for economic growth in Africa and a key tool for improving people’s quality of life, particularly those living in remote regions,” Elalamy said. He also stressed the importance of education and the promotion of entrepreneurship as a major leverage for economic growth and job creation.

The meeting was part of the World Economic Forum’s project, The Africa Digital Economy Dialogue, which will be continued at the World Economic Forum Northern Corridor “Internet for All” meeting on 22-23 March 2016 in Mombasa, Kenya, as well as the forthcoming World Economic Forum on Africa on 11-13 May 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, under the theme, Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation.

“Today’s discussion was an important step in changing the narrative on the role of ICT to achieve critical economic outcomes and unleash Africa’s digital economy. We are committed to exploring these ideas further in our upcoming activities,” said Alex Wong, Head of Global Challenge Partnerships, World Economic Forum.

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