The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of digital technologies to keep businesses, healthcare, education and public services running, commented Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the Africa-Europe Digital for Development (D4D) Hub Multi-Stakeholder Forum.
“These exceptional times have also shown the urgency to invest in Africa’s digital infrastructure and build on Africa’s innovation potential,” said Abou-Zeid. The event, which took place virtually, was co-hosted by the African Union Commission and the European Commission (https://EC.europa.eu/) with the aim of promoting exchanges and collaboration with enterprises, civil society organisations, and experts in the digital field.
Only 33 % of African people use the Internet, compared to a world average of 63 %, closing the digital divide has become a top priority in AU-EU relations. Joint efforts are particularly needed to ensure that women, rural populations, and youth reap the benefits of the digital transformation.
Digital cooperation is a cornerstone of the Africa-EU strategic partnership. “The African Union welcomes the partnership with the European Union and further engagement with African and European stakeholders to accelerate the digital transformation of our continent,” said Abou-Zeid.
“We have kicked off a much-needed dialogue with our private sector and civil society partners in Africa and Europe to build a shared digital future that leaves no one behind. This is the first step in implementing concretely the deliverables of the recent EU-AU Summit. In line with the Global Gateway Strategy, the EU will scale up investments, support innovation, and promote digital rights. Bridging the digital divide is key in fighting inequalities. To achieve this, we must work together with all our partners in the digital ecosystem,” said Ms Jutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships.
The Africa-Europe D4D Hub Multi-Stakeholder Forum was held one month after the 6th European Union –African Union Summit, where leaders from both continents announced a EUR 150 billion Africa-Europe Investment Package (https://bit.ly/3wEsre3), which amongst other priorities aims to accelerate Africa’s digital transition.
This ambition aligns with the EU Global Gateway, a strategy set out to boost smart, clean, and secure investments in connectivity, and the AU Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, which aims to transform Africa’s economies by harnessing digital technologies and innovation for the benefit of people.
A safe, sustainable, and inclusive digital transformation holds a great potential to support a green recovery and a more resilient economy. The AU-EU digital partnership can help address the pressing need to expand and deepen regional value chains and harmonise policies, legislation, and regulations, as well as safeguarding data sovereignty.
Participants at the forum also stressed the potential of digital innovation for decent job creation. With 70% (https://bit.ly/3uecsQR) of Africa’s population under the age of 30, digital entrepreneurship offers untapped opportunities for youth. Best practices were identified to steer multi-stakeholder collaborations for digital skills development and support of local innovation ecosystems.