Is the African Child Safe Online?

Internet picture of pupils in a classroom

Today the world is celebrating the International Day of the African Child.  The African continent, was dubbed the “children’s continent” by the World Economic Forum because it has the world’s fastest growing youth population with an average age of 19. It has also been projected that two out of every five children born in 2050 and beyond, will be Africans! This further affirms Africa’s position as the world’s youngest continent.

Africans under the age of 30 account for 70% of the entire population on the continent. This rapid population growth which is expected to double the population by 2050, presents both opportunities and challenges for present and future leaders of Africa.

In order for Africa to address challenges that arise from rapid population growth and also attain middle income status by mid-century, African leaders must strategically plan and invest in critical areas of Education, Information and Communication Technology as well as Agriculture and climate change.

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These three strategic areas, are underpinned by the World Bank’s six strategic themes, African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nation’s millennium development goals as pivotal enablers of Africa’s social and economic transformation.

According to the Internet Society, Africa’s internet penetration stood at 43% as of June 2022 which is far below the global average of 68%. However, with increased ICT infrastructure investment from China and the World Bank, Africa’s internet penetration is set to improve and the unit cost of bandwidth to further drop.

Also, Chinese mobile phone manufacturers have established factories on the continent which has reduced the cost of mobile phones and laptops thus making them affordable for more Africans.

The potential of digital literacy, ICTs and the internet to enable sectors of education, manufacturing, agriculture and youth employment amongst others is enormous. However, the internet which is believed to be the biggest invention of the 20th Century, also has the potential to negatively impact an entire generation of children.

Africa has the highest youth population and the least measures of online safety for its youth and children. As a result, the African child is highly vulnerable to external online violence in the form of online sexual harassment, child pornography, cyber bullying, stalking and hate speech which can adversely affect a child’s psychological and mental well-being.

It is therefore imperative, that as we celebrate the International Day of the African Child, African governments prioritize the establishment and enforcement of online safety laws the safeguard future generations.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) developed guidelines for parents and educators on child online safety which can be accessed and adopted by UN member states to safeguard the online safety of the African child.

-Written by Mugabi Samuel

The writer is an ICT Content Writer and Director ICT Makerere University

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