Tech companies pledge big at Global Citizen Festival

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Global Citizen received commitments worth $7.1 billion, to impact the lives of over 137 million people in Africa.
Global Citizen received commitments worth $7.1 billion, to impact the lives of over 137 million people in Africa.

Tech and telecoms companies including Cisco, Vodacom, HP, Accenture and Intel made big pledges to the Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100 over the weekend.

On 2 December, Global Citizen brought together its largest contingency of heads of state, dignitaries, a group of the world's most talented artists and influencers, and thousands of global citizens to celebrate the centenary of late struggle icon and former president Nelson Mandela.

Thousands of people attended the event at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium, headlined by music superstars Beyonce and Jay-Z, with performances from Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams, Chris Martin, Usher, Femi Kuti and Cassper Nyovest, among others.

Global Citizens could earn free tickets to the concert by taking actions in their local communities or on the Global Citizen Web site or mobile app.

According to the Global Citizen's impact report, the event surpassed its goal for commitments of $1 billion by seven times. Overall, more than 5.65 million actions led to 58 commitments and announcements worth over $7.1 billion, or around R100 billion, which is set to affect the lives of over 137 million people in Africa.

Tech commitments

Some of the big commitments came from leading tech companies.

Networking giant Cisco committed to preparing 10 million people worldwide for jobs in the digital economy, including a million in Africa. The in-kind value amounts to around $1.5 billion, Cisco said, and will be carried out over the next five years.

The Cisco Networking Academy has helped to create opportunities for people around the world through training individuals with important 21st century skills. To date, Cisco has trained over nine million people with technical skills.

"We are proud to be part of this remarkable campaign to empower citizens globally and contribute to improving the lives of marginalised communities in Africa and around the world. This commitment is in keeping with Nelson Mandela's vision to alleviate poverty, especially in Africa," said Clayton Naidoo, Cisco's GM for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub and chief officer of corporate affairs Takalani Netshitenzhe announced Vodacom would support president Cyril Ramaphosa's investment in digital technologies by pledging R500 million, over the next five years, to fight gender-based violence, enhance sanitation in schools, and enhance digital literacy for teachers, learners, youth and in early childhood development centres.

South Africa's biggest telecoms operator also reiterated its commitment to invest R50 billion over the next five years to go towards deploying a fibre network, 4G and 5G technologies around the country. Vodacom said half of this will be spent on rural underserved communities in South Africa.

Netshitenzhe also said Vodacom will partner with the South African government to ensure children have access to safe pit latrines. Local media personality Nomzamo Mbatha presented a call-to-action saying that for every retweet of a particular post on her Twitter account, the Vodacom Foundation will donate R1 to the issue of pit latrines, up to the value of R500 000.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) pledged to empower 100 000 learners across Africa in the next three years through the HP Foundation's HP LIFE (Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs) programme. It kicked off the commitment by opening a new tech-enabled HP LIFE Centre in South Africa, a technology-enabled hub to facilitate learning, collaboration and entrepreneurship in a physical, face-to-face setting.

"We believe education is a human right, that technology in the classroom is a critical component for a 21st century education, and that in today's economy our learning is never done," said Nate Hurst, chief sustainability and social impact officer for HP.

"Africa is experiencing rapid urbanisation and digitisation, and it's essential that people have access to learn skills for the work of tomorrow. This new HP LIFE Centre provides a launchpad for innovation and opportunity across the continent."

Through WEConnect International, Intel and Accenture committed to focusing on spending more on women-owned businesses, and especially those in developing countries including SA.

"Accenture as a global corporate is committing a $100 million spend with women-owned businesses over three years, and we are doing that deliberately because we believe in the empowerment of women," the company said.

Intel said it made a commitment last year in Berlin to spend $100 million with women-owned businesses, and it was doubling that to $200 million by 2020.

"The more you spend with women-owned businesses, the more you develop those communities they work in and spend their own money with. We will continue, with WEConnect International, to identify those women-owned businesses and continue certifying and developing those many businesses out there," Intel said.

South African comedian Trevor Noah announced the Trevor Noah Foundation, which has renovated schools and provided access to technology and career training for young people, would start providing support to teachers as well. And in a commitment to last until the end of the month, Noah pledged to match every dollar donated to the foundation up until R2 million.

Ghana's president Nana Akufo-Addo announced at the festival that Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda will sign the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, an unprecedented multi-stakeholder declaration unveiled by French president Emmanuel Macron in early November.

The festival was streamed live on YouTube yesterday and Global Citizen's YouTube account has over 225 000 subscribers.

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13 Aug
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