African leaders are warning that the continent’s lofty dreams may not be realized without a determined focus on information and communication technology (ICT), skills development and innovation.

Speaking during the opening session of the 10th edition of eLearning Africa conference, H.E. Mr. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, emphasized that the African Union’s dreams of catalyzing an education and skills revolution are not going to be easily realized, unless the current creative and innovative capacities are properly harnessed. “There is an abiding imperative for Africa to foster innovation and creative technologies as the basis for advancements in ICT and sustainable economic development. It is the duty of our governments, the private sector and all segments of our society, to participate actively in maximizing the use and application of ICTs to create competitive, knowledge economies, as well as economies of impetus. Such is the foundation of gainful capital in human resource development,” Mr. Mwencha said.

The Deputy Chair also made reference to the African Union’s Pan African University Program which demonstrates the practical efforts being undertaken by the Commission, to facilitate and implement Africa’s collective aspiration for meaningful development underpinned by rapid transformations in science, innovation, research and technology-driven education. “Such initiatives, firmly anchored on the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA), represent hope and potential for the future generation of Africans. Under the STISA, the Commission will continue to pursue the elevation of Africa’s role in global research, technology development and transfer, innovation and knowledge production,” he said.

Ministers meeting at eLearning Africa’s Round Table for African ICT and education ministers earlier also warned that ICTs were central to growth and African governments needed to do more to mainstream them, particularly in the education system.

Also gracing the occasion was Dr Debretsion Gebremichael, Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Coordinator of the Finance and Economy Cluster, and Minister of Communication and Information Technology who reiterated  the deputy chairs’ remarks  saying  that his Government has made efforts to make ICT a strategic priority.

“It has been abundantly clear that information and communication technologies are entirely changing the way individuals, organizations and enterprises think and do business. As a result, the Government of Ethiopia has made the development of information and communications technology one of its strategic priorities. For Ethiopia, the utilization of ICT aims at accelerating development, sustaining growth and promoting the process of democratization – while at the same time reducing the national level of poverty,” Dr Debretsion said.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s Personal Representative for Africa, Mr Guenter Nooke, who also spoke in the opening session underlined the importance of eLearning for the continent saying that technology-assisted learning can help to develop the vital skills for the future of Africa. “Equipping young Africans with entrepreneurial expertise enables them to develop innovative solutions that will foster social and economic development. We need to create a digital friendly environment,“ he said.

eLearning Africa, co-hosted by the African Union and the Government of Ethiopia, is being held at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa from 20th May to 22nd May 2015. In addition to the conference, which will be attended by over 1500 participants from all over the world, there is an exhibition, at which a range of exciting new technological solutions will be presented.