Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on Tuesday called for inclusivity and Africa's active participation in the Africa-EU partnership to ensure the effective delivery of programmes to transform the continent's economies.
Ndabeni-Abrahams is leading the South African delegation at the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe 2018 themed 'Taking cooperation to the digital age' in Vienna, Austria.
The forum seeks to provide space to reflect and act on how to secure prosperity and competitiveness in Africa and Europe. It also aims at deepening the relationship, with focus on the private sector's contribution.
The forum builds on the Joint Declaration of the EU-African Union Summit in Abidjan 2017 and further supports implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union's Agenda 2063.
In particular, its aim is to contribute to the implementation of the European Commission's "Communication on a new Africa - Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs: Taking our partnership for investment and jobs to the next level", which sets out the key strands of action for a strong economic agenda for the EU and its African partners, taking the ambition of the EU External Investment Plan to the next level.
According to Ndabeni-Abrahams, for Africa to equally compete with its European counterparts, it must build on existing initiatives to harmonise policy and regulatory frameworks, provide institutional frameworks and integrate markets.
"It is critical that Africa plays a key role in the development of its infrastructure, for the internet, for data warehousing and cloud computing, amongst other critical infrastructure," the Minister said.
Ndabeni-Abrahams further reiterated that while building ICT infrastructure is important, the human element is also intrinsic to technological innovation.
"We believe that as we build ICT infrastructure, at the heart of our discussions should be people - they must be placed at the centre of all that we do to adapt to the 4th Industrial Revolution and the technological changes that drive it.
"Critical areas for us to address include re-skilling and vocational training to help protect existing employees and ensure they have the relevant skills. We need programmes to promote i-STEAM subjects, particularly amongst our youth, women and rural communities," Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
In closing, Ndabeni-Abrahams pointed out that regional initiatives such as the planned African Free Trade Area and Single Digital Market provide a prodigious potential for improving trade and economic growth.
She further urged the EU to support investment in Africa's youth, digital start-ups and in foreign Direct Investment by European companies.
The forum will conclude with a roundtable discussions between government and the private sector with key agenda items including innovation, digitalisation, technological transfer and trade, which are key to the attainment of South Africa's National Development Plan.