Q2/2020 - African Union

Digital transformation strategy for Africa (2020 – 2030), Addis Ababa, 18 May 2020

On 18 May 2020, the African Union adopted a comprehensive strategy paper on the digital transformation of Africa from 2020 to 2030. The aim of the 10-year plan is to build a single digital market in Africa until 2030. By the year 2030, every African citizen shall have access to the Internet (6MB/sec) at affordable conditions (1 cent per MB and no more than 100 US$ for an end device). 30 percent of the electronic services offered in Africa in 2030 shall be provided by African companies and be hosted on servers located in Africa. All in all, the plan comprises 16 goals, including harmonised legislation, agreements between the AU member states on cyber security and data privacy, interoperability between the African states, extension of the African domain name space, enhancement of the digital education level for everybody (e-Skills Development Program) and promotion of the Pan-African trade. By 2030, African citizens shall have become enlightened and responsible e-citizens[1].

On 53 pages, the AU strategy paper covers nearly all fields of digital economy, from cyber security to innovative technologies. The AU has formulated seven principles that shall form the basis for the strategy, which shall be implemented on four levels, so-called foundation pillars. Eleven critical sectors are defined and more than 200 recommendations made:

The seven principles are: 1. Solidarity and Cooperation, 2. Comprehensive, 3. Transformative, 4. Inclusive, 5. Homegrown, 6. New Mindset, 7. Safe.

The four levels are: 1. Policy and Regulation, 2. Digital Infrastructure, 3. Digital Skills and Human Capacity, 4. Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship. For each of the four levels, existing problems are identified and actions proposed. Each group of proposed actions further includes numerous recommendations how to measure future implementation.

As critical sectors to drive digital transformation, the following fields are listed: 1. Digital Industry, 2. Digital Trade and Financial Services, 3. Digital Governance (e-government) 4. Digital Education, 5. Digital Health, 6. Digital Agriculture. The following are listed as “Cross Cutting Themes”: 1. Digital Content and Applications, 2. Digital Identity, 3. Emerging Technologies, 4. Cybersecurity, Privacy and Personal Data Protection, and 5. Research and Development.

The African Union’s digital strategy is largely based on the European Union’s digital strategy but works out very precisely the digital specifics of the African continent with its strengths and weaknesses. It points out the continent’s opportunities of “leapfrogging” and the creative potential of Africa’s young population on the one hand and the risks of growing dependency and deepening digital divide on the other hand. Human rights though play a somewhat neglected role. While reference is made in several places to the need to protect privacy in the digital space and to data protection, concrete measures to protect the right to freedom of expression are rare in the document.

The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa is the most comprehensive document on Internet policy that has ever been prepared in Africa. The African Union considers this strategy a key element for its African Agenda 2063. The year 1963  has gone down in history as the “Year of Africa”. In 1963, more than 40 African states liberated themselves from colonialism, gained independence and became equal members of the United Nations.

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Q2/2020African Union
  1. [1] The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2030), Adis Ababa, 18. Mai 2020, „1. Build a secured Digital Single Market in Africa by 2030 where free movement of persons, services and capital is ensured and undividuals and businesses can seamlessly access and engage in online activities in line with Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) 2. By 2030 all our people should be digitally empowered and able to access safely and securely to at least (6 mb/s) all the time where ever they live in the continent at an affordable price of no more than (1cts usd per mb) through a smart device manufactured in the continent at the price of no more than (100 usd) to benefit from all basic e-services and content of which at least 30% is developed and hosted in Africa; 3. Create a harmonized environment necessary to guarantee investment and financing by setting up a digital sovereignty fund in order to close the digital infrastructure gap and achieve an accessible, affordable and secure broadband, across demography, gender, and geography; 4. Harmonize policies, legislations and regulations and establish and improve digital networks and services with a view to strengthening intra-Africa trade, intra-investment and capital flows and the socio-economic integration of the continent, while maintaining a relational balance with other continents in the context of networked economies (Digital economy, collaborative economy) 5. Implement laws, policies and regulations required to stimulate and accelerate digital transformation for national, regional and continental development; 6. Enable the coherence of existing and future digital policies and strategies at regional and national levels and mobilize effective cooperation between institutions; 7. Entry into force of the African Union convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection by 2020 and for all Members States to adopt a complete set of legislation covering e-Transactions, Personal Data Protection and Privacy, Cybercrime and Consumer Protection; 8. Promote open standards and interoperability for cross-border trust framework, personal data protection and privacy; 9. Create awareness and counterbalance issues of Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection and Privacy; 10. Promote the management and use of Country Codes Top Level Domains as they are critical national resources whilst ensuring that technical and administrative operations are at international standards to foster trust and use of African Domain Names in order to bring financial, economic and sociocultural benefits to Africa; 11. Build inclusive digital skills and human capacity across the digital sciences, judiciary, and education, both technical and vocational, to lead and power digital transformation including coding, programming, analysis, security, block chain, machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology policy & regulation; 12. Offer a massive online e-skills development program to provide basic knowledge and skills in security and privacy in digital environment to 100 million Africans a year by 2021 and 300 million per year by 2025. " 13. Foster the policies that create an enabling environment for productive digital trade and digital payment systems to advance opportunities for digital work, fair competition for digital businesses, and contribute to an advantageous position of Africa in the global digital economy; 14. Support the Agenda 2063 flagship Pan-African “E” programme through providing policies and strategies that lead to transformative e-applications and services thereby making the digital revolution the basis for service delivery and ultimately transform Africa into a Digital Society. Language barriers and time zones for e-learning and telepresence component of the Pan-African e-Network to be removed. 15. Build a vibrant sector approach to digitalization of the agriculture, health and education sectors 16. 99.9% of people in Africa to have a digital legal identity as part of a civil registration process by 2030, 17. To make African citizens, enlightened and responsible e-citizens“, in: https://au.int/en/documents/20200518/digital-transformation-strategy-africa-2020-2030