Africa and Europe must work together to advance and harvest the economic benefits of digital economy, and also prevent a counter-productive widening of the digital gap, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said.

The vice president’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement in Abuja said Osinbajo spoke on Tuesday at the Africa-Europe High-Level Forum in Vienna, Austria, which had in attendance other African and European Heads of States and Governments.

The meeting organised by the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) was held in Vienna, Austria from Dec. 17 to Dec. 18.

Speaking on the theme of the forum, “Taking Cooperation to the Digital Age’’, the vice president said that investments in digital technology could make important contribution to growth and development by fostering productivity gains from continuous innovation.

Given our fast-growing population in Africa, we are of course keen to work together to boost the job creation potential of new technologies rather than concentrating on jobs destined to disappear in the digital age.

“Faster growth, sustainable development and job creation are also vital for reducing irregular migration from Africa to Europe. In our globalised world, people can see disparities in standards of living across regions quite easily.

“This means there must be increasing openings for entrepreneurship and jobs in home countries for those who would otherwise embark on risk journeys in search of opportunities.

“ In Nigeria, we are taking urgent and practical steps to provide such opportunities for our rapidly increasing youth population.”

Osinbajo also highlighted the strides made by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in developing Nigeria’s technology sector through supporting public-private sector initiatives and the advisory group on technology and creativity.

He said that the advisory group had been working to build an ecosystem for funding, training, infrastructure and intellectual property protection.

The vice president added that Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme had been leveraging on technology tools to drive it in its bid to improve the economy as well as lives of Nigerians.

Under our social investment programme, 75,000 young people are being trained in coding, software development, hardware maintenance, animation and data management, and we’re set to train another 200,000 young men and women.

“Similarly, we have established eight technology hubs to support tech startups across our six geopolitical zones and two major cities of Abuja and Lagos.

“We have encouraged partnership to establish venture funds to support innovation and are now engaged in talks to establish a 500 million dollars innovation funds with bilateral and multilateral partners.

“We will be deploying digital methods and tools on a larger scale to expand learning opportunities for younger Nigerians, as conventional education through brick and mortar institution can no longer be viable given the huge numbers and limited resources.

“Already, 200,000 out of our 500,000 young graduates in our N-Power scheme have tablet devices, which we use for on-the-job training and further skills acquisition.

“This experience will guide our efforts as we seek to expand digital literacy at earlier stages of education.

“Similarly, our education curriculum is being reworked to emphasise Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. The Arts have been included because of the growing recognition of the strengths of our country, especially in the arts, music, film and literature.”

Osinbajo also highlighted the growth in e-commerce in Nigeria, with references to leading e-commerce platforms that had leveraged on technology to grow their businesses.

According to him, financial technology is being used in efforts to rapidly scale up financial inclusion.

He said that working with banks, TELCOs and FinTech companies, the Federal Government had used digital tools and platforms to provide interest-free micro loans to up to 1.3 million Nigerians, while about 300,000 received Conditional Cash Transfers by the same means.

Osinbajo said that the government hired, paid and trained online 500,000 young men and women in the largest post-tertiary direct jobs programme in Africa.

According to him, through participation in this scheme, present and future beneficiaries will be brought into databases for unique biometric identification.

I am optimistic that our efforts would attract strong support and active engagement of our partners in the European Union,’’ he said.

Osinbajo also commended the work of Nigerians in Diaspora, adding that the Nigerian community was adding value to the country.

The meeting was attended by leading members of the Nigerian community in Vienna.