Digitisation, alongside with agriculture and energy policy, was as one of the major themes at the EU-Africa Business Forum in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) on 27 November 2017. This event has taken place thanks to the cooperation of the European Commission and African Union Commission to work to make better use of digital technologies and services between the two continents. Business leaders, investors, innovative startups, young and female entrepreneurs from Africa and Europe are coming together for the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum.

VP Ansip stands on a podium to deliver a speech

In Abidjan today, the Africa-EU Business Forum was opened by VP Ansip of the European Commission and the current Presidency of the African Union, President of Guinea HE Alpha Condé.  Present the Forum are 50 European Union and 50 African startups who are showcasing their technologies and services in a Startup Fair. Their participation in Abidjan is thanks to the support of the African Union Commission, the Startup Europe-Africa initiative and the European Commission. (see press release from AU-Africa Business-Forum)

At the Forum, VP Ansip and African Union Commissioner Abou-Zeid chaired a High Level Roundtable on Digital economy which brought together leaders from industry and governments to debate measures needed to guarantee affordable broadband connectivity for all, mainstreaming digital skills, supporting digital entrepreneurs and using the potential of digital across sectors, such as e-Government, e-Agriculture and Fintech. Furthermore, discussions took place in parallel workshops which focused on available financing for digital startups and policies for scaling them up. In addition, the EU-Africa Startup Network (SEC2A) presented a Manifesto for the development of a thriving community of African-European startup ecosystems.

Digital tools will not only help Europe but also Africa's economic development. In May 2017, the European Commission adopted a set of policies, establishing for the first time a European Commission digital priorities (led by DG CONNECT and DG DEVCO) to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals in the developing world. The purpose of this initiative is to work with the developing world to take advantage of the growing digital economy to boost growth and jobs.

Similarly, the African Union has also produced a number of policy documents to boost the digital economy in Africa, for instance the Smart Africa initiative. Digital for Development initiative. The African continent has proven that in the last 10 years, digital technologies and services can substantially contribute to social and economic change. It has been actively working to foster the digital revolution, mobile payments, e-agriculture or e-government.

Finally at the Business Forum, the European Commission also announced the European External investment plan, containing a digital investment window targeting connectivity, entrepreneurship and digital services infrastructure.

On 29-30 November, the EU-AU summit between the Heads of State and Governments of the two Unions will then meet. There discussions will focus on cooperation to boost the digital economy and society between Europe and Africa further.