Today’s remembrance of the International Day of the African Child, under the theme ‘The Rights of the Child in the Digital Environment,’ recognises the urgent need to safeguard the rights of children as they navigate the opportunities and challenges of the digital age and calls for reflection and dedication to addressing the myriad challenges facing children. Also, as a way to honour the brave actions taken by young people 47 years ago, Africa recognises how the world has changed with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is accelerating AI, Robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other technologies in the digital environment.
These wide and dynamic changes in the digital environment have changed and reshaped how children exercise and realise their rights. Many leaders all over the world have sent out statements on the celebration of the Day of the African Child, which is today, June 16.
In Africa, children are increasingly exposed to the internet and the virtual environment. Therefore, the effects of the digital environment on children need to be considered in the context of rights under the African Charter and the United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights.
Children now have access to the vast potential of the internet, which includes connectivity, education, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Alongside these opportunities, evident threats exist, including online child sexual exploitation, cyberbullying, abuse, and cybercrime, necessitating a multi-stakeholder approach to guarantee the promotion and protection of children’s rights. The rights of the child offline are the same as online and in any other environment.
Many African governments, including the government of the Republic of Namibia, have made progress with regard to the rights of children in the digital environment. In 2020, Namibia rolled out the National Broadband Policy, which expressly included children in the development of its advocacy and information dissemination strategies.
Other countries, such as South Africa, have reiterated their commitment to ensuring that all schools have broadband infrastructure.
Some African countries have also signed the WePROTECT Global Alliance’s Statements of Action to Tackle Online Child Sexual Exploitation. A multi-stakeholder task force was also established to continuously monitor the implementation of the framework and road map for child online protection in various countries.
As we mark the International Day of the African Child, Africans need to hold hands and collaborate to uphold the rights of their children in the digital environment. Together, as part of Agenda 2063: Africa We Want, we should build a better future for the children of the African House. Long live the African child.
Background for the International Day of the African Child
The International Day of the African Child (DAC) is marked annually in honour of the students who participated in the Soweto Uprising on June 16, 1976, in South Africa. The students protested against the poor quality of education they received and demanded to be taught in their languages. The day further aims to raise awareness of the continuing need for improvement in the education systems provided to African children.
The International Day of the African Child (DAC) was initiated by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1991.