Vice President Harris announces major initiatives to advance digital inclusion in Africa

White House, Kamala Harris

On May 24, 2024, the White House released a FACT SHEET detailing significant public and private sector commitments aimed at advancing digital inclusion across Africa. These initiatives, championed by Vice President Kamala Harris, underscore the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to partnering with Africa to foster innovation, economic growth, and social equality through digital transformation.

Vice President Harris embarked on a historic trip to Africa in March and April 2023, visiting Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia. Her mission was to invest in African innovation and highlight the continent’s creativity, ingenuity, and dynamism. During her trip, she engaged with a diverse array of individuals, including young artists, tech entrepreneurs, students, women business leaders, and farmers. Her message was clear: African ideas and innovations are pivotal to shaping the future of the world.

In a speech to nearly 8,000 Ghanaian youth in Accra, Harris emphasized the need to invest in African ingenuity and creativity. “African ideas and innovations will shape the future of the world,” she proclaimed. “The Biden-Harris administration and the American people stand ready to partner with you, to help accelerate the innovation and entrepreneurship that is already underway.”

During her trip and over the past year, Harris has worked diligently to promote digital inclusion in Africa. Her efforts have resulted in more than $7 billion in climate adaptation, resilience, and mitigation commitments, and $1 billion to empower African women by advancing women’s economic security and closing the gender digital divide. A key initiative in this regard is the Women in the Digital Economy Fund (WiDEF).

Building on these efforts, Harris has galvanized US, African, and global private sector investments to foster digital inclusion on the continent. This commitment was echoed in her speech in Accra, where she declared the United States’ dedication to mobilizing millions of dollars in public and private capital to enhance digital inclusion.

Harris has focused on digital inclusion because of its vast potential to promote economic opportunity, advance social and gender equality, and create jobs. Africa’s digital transformation has opened new markets for US exports and services, deepened partnerships among African governments, the US private sector, educational institutions, and the African diaspora, and increased productivity, competitiveness, and e-government service delivery.

Despite significant growth in digital infrastructure over the past decade, disparities persist across the continent, particularly in gender, urban/rural, income, age, ethnicity, and ability. Harris’s initiatives aim to bridge these divides and ensure that all Africans can benefit from digital advancements.

One of the most notable initiatives announced is the Mobilizing Access to the Digital Economy (MADE) Alliance: Africa. Launched in partnership with the African Development Bank Group and Mastercard, this alliance aims to provide digital access to critical services for 100 million individuals and businesses in Africa over the next decade. The initiative will initially focus on the agricultural sector and women, with a pilot program to provide digital access for three million farmers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria, and plans to expand rapidly across the continent.

The founding partners of the MADE Alliance have committed to reach at least 10 million individuals over the first five years by leveraging their complementary strengths. The African Development Bank Group will invest $300 million to support digital infrastructure and ecosystem actors. Mastercard will register 15 million users in Africa onto its Community Pass platform. Equity Bank Group will offer accessible financial services to farmers and small businesses, while Microsoft will empower community hubs with digital tools and connectivity. Heifer International will enhance agricultural visibility and traceability, and will provide affordable internet access.

In response to Harris’s Call to Action, the non-profit Partnership for Digital Access in Africa (PDAA) was established to bridge Africa’s digital divide. PDAA aims to double the number of people connected to the internet in Africa, from 40% to 80%, by 2030, connecting one billion people and increasing connectivity for women and girls from 30% to 80%.

PDAA’s strategy focuses on three core pillars: expanding affordable internet and broadband services, lowering device costs, and enhancing digital skills. The organization has aligned with partners such as the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, Smart Africa, America’s Frontier Fund, and others to achieve these goals.

Recognizing the digital gender divide, Harris launched the Women in the Digital Economy Fund (WiDEF) in 2023 with an initial $50 million investment from USAID and $10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The fund has now generated over $1 billion in commitments to accelerate gender digital equality. This initiative is part of a broader effort to enhance women’s economic participation, improve their livelihoods, and promote sustainable development.

The US government and various partners have announced additional investments to support this initiative. USAID will provide $1 million to support young women using the Girls First Finance platform, while the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) will invest $40 million to support women acquiring digital and financial literacy skills in multiple countries. The US Department of State has also committed $300,000 to help reduce barriers for women and girls in digital access.

The announcement included several new commitments from government, multilateral, private sector, philanthropic, and civil society partners. The Mozilla Foundation is investing over $7.5 million to close the gender digital divide by advancing trustworthy AI. The Government of Jersey is providing $5 million to support digital financial inclusion for women and girls in multiple countries. The Shell Foundation, in collaboration with Mastercard Community Pass and Co-operative Bank of Kenya, has committed $3.6 million to provide smallholder farmers with access to affordable credit and gender-sensitive financial literacy training.

Other notable commitments include Pfizer’s $300,000 investment to develop the “Living With” app for cancer patients in Africa, HP’s collaboration with Girl Rising to support 5.2 million students, teachers, and caregivers, and Unilever’s efforts to reach 2.5 million small and medium enterprises with a focus on women. The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women aims to support 200,000 more women in starting and growing businesses, while Cisco will enhance its Networking Academy to address the impact of generative AI and increase female participation in cybersecurity training.

Vice President Harris’s announcement represents a significant step towards advancing digital inclusion in Africa. By mobilizing public and private sector commitments, the Biden-Harris administration is working to bridge the digital divide and unlock the continent’s full potential. These initiatives will not only promote economic growth and social equality in Africa but also create new opportunities for collaboration and innovation between the US and Africa. As Harris aptly stated, “We must invest in the African ingenuity and creativity, which will unlock incredible economic growth and opportunities, not only for the people of the 54 countries that make up this diverse continent, but for the American people and people around the world.”


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