Vice President Kamala Harris shares plans to bring internet access to 80% of Africa

The initiative is one of multiple public and private sector commitments she announced to advance digital inclusion in Africa.
US Kenya Kamala Harris
Posted at 7:02 PM, May 24, 2024

Vice President Kamala Harris announced a partnership Friday that will increase internet access in Africa by 40%, bringing connectivity to 80% of the continent.

The initiative builds on a promise Harris made while visiting the continent last year to "help accelerate the innovation and entrepreneurship that is already underway" in Africa. In a call to action then, she urged business and philanthropic leaders to invest and commit to the Digital Transformation with Africa initiative, which President Joe Biden launched in December 2022.

On Friday, she shared the response to the call — one being the creation of the non-profit Partnership for Digital Access in Africa. Under it, Harris promised to connect 1 billion people in Africa to the Internet by 2030 and to increase connectivity for women and girls by 50%. The non-profit will also work to lower device costs and enhance the digital skills of Africans under a partnership with a bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Harris also announced a partnership between the African Development Bank Group and Mastercard called the Mobilizing Access to the Digital Economy Alliance. It will focus on the agricultural sector, providing $300 million to construct a digital infrastructure for 3 million farmers in three African countries before expanding elsewhere.

Additionally, the vice president shared there would be expanded funding for the Women in the Digital Economy Fund she announced in 2023, which she said has now generated more than $1 billion in public and private commitments.

While speaking alongside Kenyan President William Ruto at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Friday, she spoke of why many of the initiatives are focused on uplifting women in the digital space.

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"If we are focused on strengthening economies, one of the smartest ways to do that is to invest in women," Harris said. "The reality is that when you improve the economic condition… of women, you improve the economic condition of families, communities, and all of society benefits. So, a lot of the work then, in terms of the initial design, was to think of it that way."

Both Harris and Ruto also noted that supporting African innovation will improve the world's future, with Harris saying that by 2050, 1 in 4 living people will be on the continent.

"When I think of it just from that perspective, many could rightly argue that the future is on the continent of Africa," she said. "It's not about aid but about investment and understanding the capacity that exists and has been proven to be strong on the continent and therefore is worthwhile in terms of an investment, understanding it will yield a great return on investment."