The EU-AU Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) unveiled today its final report, a concrete result of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs launched President Jean-Claude Juncker in the 2018 State of the Union.
In the report, African and European experts propose a series of policy recommendations and concrete actions to develop the digital economy & society on the African continent.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the Digital Single Market said:
The European Union and the African Union face the same challenges. We can learn from each other to overcome them together. The European Digital Single Market, for example, can inspire African initiatives, while the EU can learn from African digital creativity and its largest asset, the youth. The jointly created Digital Economy Task Force is at the centre of this long-term effort.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society said:
The African and European Task Force members worked strongly together to adopt a comprehensive and tangible set of recommendations. The main objective is to make the two continents work in partnership and empower their citizens to succeed the digital transformation. The work continues in order to boost the digital economy and society in Africa, by building the necessary digital infrastructure, enhancing support to digital skills and entrepreneurship or establishing the right environment for e-Services to grow.
Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Development and Cooperation added:
This report is a very important step forward for the Africa-Europe Alliance. These recommendations will inspire our future digital cooperation and enable every African to benefit from the opportunities offered by digital. These digital tools will also work towards meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and the objectives of the African 2063 agenda.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications of Ghana said:
I have had the great pleasure of co-chairing the work of an outstanding group of professionals over the last six months. I am sure that the report will serve its purpose of guiding digital cooperation between the two continents, create synergies among the vast number of initiatives already existing and support the ambition of a Single African Digital Market.
The DETF draws policy recommendations and proposes concrete actions to address the principal barriers faced by the African continent as it seeks to develop the digital economy and society. For this purpose, the DETF set out four main goals also identified as priorities in the EU’s Digital4development policy:
1. Accelerating universal access to affordable broadband.
This requires developing the right financial instruments, business models, and synergies through properly designed partnerships. The regulatory environment for competitive and harmonised regional markets must also be adapted accordingly. At the same time, measures that increase affordability of broadband to all citizens, in particular the underprivileged and those living in rural areas need to be promoted.
2. Guaranteeing essential skills for all to enable citizens to thrive in the digital age.
Skills must be understood in a wide and comprehensive way across lifelong education pathways and need to be addressed by all public or private institutions potentially concerned. Skills promotion must also include reviewing education curricula in accordance with the evolving needs and trends in the digital economy and society. Developing partnerships through a multi-stakeholder African Alliance for Digital Skills and Jobs is key, to engage in policy dialogue and raise awareness among policymakers. Efforts must be harmonised at continental, regional and national level, based on a thorough assessment of market opportunities.
3. Improving the business environment and facilitating access to finance and business support services to boost digitally enabled entrepreneurship.
Partnerships between African and European partners, and among African regional actors, need to be developed to harmonise efforts related to digital entrepreneurship at continental, regional and national level. Adaptation needs to be considered at all levels throughout the value chain, to ensure flexibility and better business environment for digital enterprises of all sizes (MSMEs, start-ups and social enterprises). Actions must also ensure sustainability of an ecosystem addressing all interrelated barriers and needs and improve advisory services to stimulate digital entrepreneurship.
4. Accelerating the adoption of eServices and the further development of the digital economy for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
This will help assuring more inclusive societies, with access to basic rights and services. Governments needs to deploy the essential enabling building blocks of eGovernance services such as eID, public registries and cashless government while fully respecting data protection. Likewise, intra-African integration should be supported to ensure wider market opportunities for all companies and further benefits to citizens. Whenever possible we should build on African success stories on the development and uptake of digital financial services.
The report was adopted today by European Commissioners Mariya Gabriel and Neven Mimica, and Minister of Communications of Ghana, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, at the Digital Assembly in Bucharest. A preliminary version of the report was presented in May.
Africa has great potential to profit from a digital transformation that could provide much-needed jobs to the millions of young people who enter the workforce each year, but wide disparities exist in technological development and internet connectivity between and within countries in Africa. Some countries enjoy close to 90 % internet coverage while others are as low as 15 %. The majority of citizens in Africa lack government-issued identification, locking them out of access to critical public & private services. Digital start-ups struggle to scale-up, and traditional businesses are only slowly adopting digital technologies and platforms to boost productivity and sales. Not all governments recognise the priority to invest strategically and systematically in developing digital broadband connectivity infrastructure.
Set up in December 2018, the DETF has helped the EU and AU prioritise actions for cooperation. It has served a platform of partnership for the private sector, donors, international organisations, financial institutions and civil society based on a shared understanding of how an already fast evolving African digital transformation can achieve cross-border integration, and bring benefits to all citizens.
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