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Programme Vision: Empowered women, youth and vulnerable groups harnessing applications of science, technology, and innovation for economic, social, and environmental sustainability in Africa

Programme Mission: To provide policy choices that exploit potentials of women, youth, and other groups to harness applications of science, technology, and innovation for sustainable and diversified livelihoods, socio-economic development, and biodiversity conservation in Africa

Programme Goal: To support the development of enabling policies, organizations and institutions for harnessing the potentials of gender, youth and other groups in bio sciences, bio resources and biotechnologies, information technologies, climate resilience strategies and in responsible natural resource management in Africa.

Africa’s headline economic growth is not enough, says the African Development Bank: there is need to develop deliberate policies to reduce inequalities and promote inclusive growth. This includes among others addressing disparities in gender, youth, and quality and relevant education, improving the investment climate; and encouraging the private sector. The World Bank defines social inclusion as the process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of people, disadvantaged based on their identity to take part in society. Socially excluded people lack the capacity or access to social opportunities that assure inclusive growth hence political stability, equal distribution of wealth, increased social and productive sectors, creation of decent work, and reduce risks of political uprising.

ACTS, through this cross-cutting programme, will invest in the untapped potentials of disadvantaged groups of women and youth, the growing opportunities of start-ups, and public-private partnerships to enhance inclusive development. The tenets of this programme are, therefore, cross-cutting and expected to mutually benefit the main four ACTS programme areas.

The programme first recognizes that the role of women always found at the lower echelons in the formal sector, or in informal sector, has come to the fore following the rise of technology, connectivity, economic liberalization and policy reforms. Women in Africa are the majority contributors to family food basket through smallholder subsistence farming. With increasing climate vulnerabilities, their ability to feed Africa shall be limited, consequentially reducing the households’ livelihoods. Aggravated natural resources degradation affects most the women and vulnerable groups, who then must be the first to benefit from climate resilient development strategies. Nevertheless, there are untapped potentials in enabling women to access and apply ICT in their development projects either at an informal or formal stage. There is already evidence that women are now harnessing new tools (and spaces) for development, governance, networking, and marketing making their contribution to economic growth more mainstream than before.

Secondly, Africa is the fastest growing and most youthful population in the world with implications for job creation and stability. In particular, in view of the “youth bulge” (20 percent of African population is aged 15-24 years) in African populations, policies that expand the opportunity space by transforming and increasing the size of economies and markets will be critical. According to the World Bank, “with more than half of Sub- Saharan Africa’s population now under the age of 25, and as many as 11 million young Africans expected to join the labour market every year for the next decade, creating millions of productive, well-paying jobs will be vital to boost economic growth, significantly cut poverty, and create shared prosperity in Africa”. For a continent that has heavily relied on commodity trade for much of its growth in recent times, creating knowledge and green economies that meets the needs on the youthful population warrants prioritization. Young people will invariably be here longer. Thus the future impacts of climate change, and the consequent adaptation programmes developed should consider the next generation of developers, businessmen, farmers, innovators and consumers. There is potential to create employment opportunities for youth from climate resilient economies.

There is particular interest in Africa to advance the role of youth in ICT innovations and applications. Young people below the age of 35 years already develop a majority of ICT start-ups in Africa. In Kenya, the average age on an iHub member is 30 years, many of whom are involved in developing or applying such innovations in several sectors (agriculture, finance, health, education, environment, and entertainment etc.). However, these young innovators mainly lack a sustainability framework that ensures the scaling up, adoption and continuous improvement of their innovations for efficiency. ACTS will invest in policies, organizations, and partnerships that favour successful incubation and roll out of youth-led innovations in our priority areas of agriculture, food and nutrition security, water, energy, information technologies, and biodiversity conservation.

To support the inclusion of gender and youth in ACTS programme areas and in the broader framework of accelerating Africa’s transition into knowledge based and green economy, this programme area shall invest in leveraging private sector engagement and public-private partnerships for inclusive development.