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Harris announces plans to help 80% of Africa gain access to the internet, up from 40% now

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris announced Friday the formation of a new partnership to help provide internet access to 80% of Africa by 2030, up from roughly 40% now.

The announcement comes as follow-through on Harris' visit to the continent last year and in conjunction with this week's visit to Washington by Kenyan President William Ruto. Harris and the Kenyan leader had a public chat on Friday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about how public-private partnerships can increase economic growth.

“Many could rightly argue that the future is on the continent of Africa,” said Harris, noting that the median age in Africa is 19, a sign of the potential for economic growth. “It is not about, and simply about aid, but about investment and understanding the capacity that exists.”

Africa has struggled to obtain the capital needed to build up its industrial and technological sectors. The United Nations reported last year that foreign direct investment in the continent fell to $45 billion in 2022, from a record high $80 billion in 2021. Africa accounted for only 3.5% of foreign direct investment worldwide, even though it makes up roughly 18% of the global population.

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Besides launching the nonprofit Partnership for Digital Access in Africa, Harris announced an initiative geared toward giving 100 million African people and businesses in the agricultural sector access to the digital economy.

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

Harris, a Democrat and the first female U.S. vice president, also announced that the Women in the Digital Economy efforts to address the gender divide in technology access have now generated more than $1 billion in public and private commitments, with some federal commitments pending congressional approval.

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Follow the AP's coverage of Vice President Kamala Harris at https://apnews.com/hub/kamala-harris.

Josh Boak, The Associated Press