1. The three Dutch core policy documents

The Dutch Policy in promoting digitalisation and youth is explained in three core documents:

  • Investing in Global Prospects for the World (2018), highlighting youth employment in Africa as a priority.
  • The Digital Agenda for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (2019) which focusses on the trend of digitalisation in the global South.
  • Youth at Heart: young people at the heart of Dutch development cooperation policy (Feb 2020), which highlights the interrelation of the labour market and education systems.
    Whilst the first two are large policy documents, the latter introduces a strategy on how to include youth in Africa and focus countries. The strategy highlights that the core problem is that the training & education landscape Across Africa and focus countries lack capacity and updated curricula that adequately prepare youth for the labour market. 
2. The pre-conditions to an inclusive digital economy

In June 2020, the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) published official advice about the immense digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world, exacerbated by the ongoing Corona pandemic. It states four critical conditions to ensure meaningful participation in the digital economy: Access to the internet, Online security, Necessary skills and Better work. Within this framework, the report provides nine recommendations, briefly noted in the table.

Nine recommendations of the AIV reportIn future programming, I believe that it will become vital to consider the interconnectedness between these conditions. This should be incorporated when a project is still in its conceptual phase, like when designing a theory of change. Applying these four conditions can also help organisations to think of new potential partners. This can positively contribute to the longer-term sustainability of your projects. 


3.     We need to close the mobile gender gap

There is still a considerable gap between the proportion of men and women who have a smartphone with internet. Only two out of three women own a cell phone and barely one in three uses their mobile data on a regular basis. Seven out of ten online mobile users are men. This phenomenon is known as the 'Mobile Gender Gap', which is currently at 41 percent.


Boy working on the computerSeeing that large gap, I believe that focussing on combatting gender discrimination is a necessary social investment to make great strides to contribute the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially gender equality (SDG 5), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8) and reduced inequalities (SDG 10). For example, the 2018 report, Better leadership better world – women leading for the goals, shows evidence of how (amongst others) companies with high gender equality outperformed those with lower gender equality by 11 percent.




Seeing the Dutch government come with a strategic position and its proposition ‘youth at heart’ is a good step. The AIV reports’ focus on the four conditions to meaningful participation in the digital economy and the nine recommendations can help focus future programmes. The report also clearly states however that even though the Dutch policy and interventions are commendable, much more needs to be done.

In my view, the main dilemma of the ‘Youth at heart’ strategy is that it focuses primarily on the Dutch focus countries. However, trends such as digitalisation, digital economy growth and the contribution to the informal economy can rapidly expand to other countries. It is important to highlight that governments cannot solve this challenge alone. They need effective partnerships with multiple investors, companies, other governments and donors, knowledge institutions, NGOs, and technical and capacity building organisations to make meaningful change.


James SablerollesBy James Sablerolles, Business Developer & Enterprising Consultant, MDF Training & Consultancy. Views expressed here are my own.