Q2/2020 - African Union
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.
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.