Harris unveils plan to double internet access in Africa

Vice President Kamala Harris announced a new partnership Friday that will double internet access across Africa.

Roughly 40 percent of the continent has access to the web, and the new partnership looks to increase it to 80 percent. Harris’s announcement follows a trip last year to Africa and came as Kenyan President William Ruto visited Washington for a state visit.

During a conversation with Ruto, the vice president stressed that the U.S. wants to reimagine its relationship with Africa. She said Friday that it should “not be one of benevolence but of thinking about the relationship in the context of partnership.”

Harris also noted that the median age in Africa is 19, a sign for the potential economic growth that lies ahead for the continent. The future, she said, is in Africa.

The continent has struggled to obtain the capital it needs to build its technological sector. Foreign direct investment fell in 2022 after reaching a record high the year before. Africa accounts for just 3.5 percent of foreign investment worldwide, The Associated Press reported.

Harris announced her “digital inclusion” efforts because there is “great potential” for economic opportunity, to advance social equality and gender equality and to create jobs, the White House said in a release.

The African Development Bank Group, along with Mastercard and other organizations, will help form the Mobilizing Access to the Digital Economy Alliance. The alliance will give digital access to 3 million farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria before expanding elsewhere, per the AP.

The White House promoted the partnership in a news release, noting that Africa’s “digital transformation” has and will continue to open “new markets for U.S. exports and services” and create a “deepened partnership among African governments [and] the U.S. private sector.”

The administration added that the transformation would also increase productivity and competitiveness.

While the alliance has mostly been greeted with enthusiasm by those at the event, people who work for U.S. tech companies in Kenya are demanding more accountability and better working conditions.

A group of workers wrote to President Biden, seeing his meeting with Ruto as an opportunity to voice their concerns. They say the content moderation and artificial intelligence work they’re doing, for very little pay, is harmful mentally and physically and could be compared to “modern day slavery.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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