In December 2021, the European Union launched the Global Gateway, a new strategy to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world – including in Africa. This commitment was reinforced during the 6th European Union - African Union Summit, where leaders from both continents announced a EUR 150 billion Global Gateway Africa-Europe Investment Package to support Africa for a strong, inclusive, green and digital transformation.
In this spirit, the Global Gateway will be at the heart of the debate during the Transform Africa Summit, which will take place in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from 26-28 April 2023. As part of the official programme, the AU-EU Digital for Development (D4D) Hub is facilitating a panel discussion titled “Global Gateway: Building trusted connectivity between Africa and Europe.” The purpose of the session is to foster a conversation between African and European stakeholders on the opportunities that the Global Gateway offers for the Africa-Europe digital partnership, with a particular focus on digital inclusion.
The panel discussion will be moderated by Melody Musoni, policy officer on digital economy and governance at the European Centre for Development Management Policy (ECDPM). As a think tank specialising in Africa-Europe relations, ECDPM conducts research and analysis on the geopolitics of digital investment and cooperation, the importance of digital regulation and digital governance to enable inclusive growth and protect citizens, and the role of digital tools in African regional integration.
In this interview, Ms Musoni shares her own insights into some of the questions that will be explored during the AU-EU D4D Hub session at the Transform Africa Summit.
Q: Why is it important for Africa and Europe to exchange on their digital priorities at the Transform Africa Summit?
MM: I think the Transform Africa Summit is a strategic platform for African stakeholders to showcase their progress in digitally transforming African economies, and for European stakeholders to listen and learn directly from African stakeholders about Africa’s needs and priorities.
European stakeholders can engage and consult African stakeholders on the type of support they need from Europe. They can also use this platform as an opportunity for visibility to present the Global Gateway strategy and the Team Europe Initiatives to African stakeholders. They can explain what the EU is offering to Africa and explain to African stakeholders what they need to do to benefit from the Global Gateway.
When both Africa and Europe understand each other’s visions and priorities, it becomes easier for the two regions to develop synergies and cooperate on projects that benefit citizens and businesses on both continents and help each other achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Q: In your opinion, how can the Global Gateway strengthen the Africa-Europe digital partnership?
MM: The Global Gateway can strengthen Africa-Europe relations by supporting African priorities around developing digital infrastructure and closing the digital divide notably through investing in submarine cables, fibre optic cables and satellites for internet access, increasing last mile connectivity, supporting digital skills programs, supporting local innovators to develop local content, and providing support for research and development.
Africa remains the continent with the highest number of unconnected people, and the biggest digital divides and yet it has the biggest youth population. Africa needs investment and technical support from its international partners. The Global Gateway Strategy is definitely an opportunity for Africa and Europe to strengthen their digital partnerships.
The EU has promised an estimated EUR 150 billion in investments, including in the digital field. Such investments can play a role in addressing the connectivity issues in Africa. For example, the EU can consult African countries and together they can identify the main regional fibre backbones and other priority commitments that the EU can invest in.
Q: What are the opportunities for Africa and Europe to work together to advance a human-centric digital transformation?
MM: Human-centric digital transformation is about putting the rights of people first. This means that any form of technology or any form of project must be used to promote and uphold human rights and freedoms.
The European Union is definitely at the forefront in developing human rights frameworks in the digital space and ensuring that human rights and democratic values are protected in line with the rule of law. Africa can certainly benefit and learn from Europe’s experience to develop its own frameworks suitable for African needs while protecting its citizens' rights.
Europe can share its experience of the challenges it faced in achieving a human-centric digital transformation and lessons on how it is dealing with these challenges. For example, a significant number of African countries still do not have data protection laws or have not established supervisory authorities. Europe can provide technical support to these African countries in developing their data protection laws in line with local needs and circumstances. There is also an opportunity for Africa and Europe to work together in implementing the AU Data Policy Framework in African countries. Europe can share knowledge and use cases on data governance which can help African countries.
Q: Why does this session give particular emphasis to digital inclusion?
MM: Digital inclusion discussions promote the human-centric idea of development where we make sure that no one is left behind. Africa cannot fully reach its digital potential if it doesn’t close the connectivity gaps. Currently, Africa’s internet penetration is at 43% which is below the world average of 66%. This means that millions of people in Africa are not connected to the internet and are not in a position to participate or benefit from the digital economy.
Discussions on digital inclusion help to identify the underlying reasons for digital exclusion (from lack of digital skills and literacy, high cost of data, lack of infrastructure in remote areas and other underserved communities, etc). Understanding the underlying reasons for digital exclusion will help stakeholders in identifying priority areas which need immediate interventions.
I think discussing digital inclusion at the Transform Africa Summit will help stakeholders understand the regional disparities and identify priority areas which align with their strategic visions and adopt a multi-dimensional approach to deal with different digital developmental needs. At the same time, these discussions highlight investment opportunities and new markets for business. We also have political leaders and policymakers attending the Transform Africa Summit who can benefit from these discussions. These discussions can put into perspective the challenges that Africa faces and place an urgency on the need for an enabling policy and legal environment.
Do you want to know more? Join the “Global Gateway: Building trusted connectivity between Africa and Europe” session on 27 April at 12:00 CET.
About the interviewee
Melody Musoni is a Policy Officer on digital economy and governance at the European Centre for Development Management Policy (ECDPM). She works on various projects around policy implications of digital sovereignty, digital regulation, digital geopolitics, digital IDs, and e-government. Before joining ECDPM, Melody worked as a data protection senior expert and advisor at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat. Melody has a decade-long experience in both legal practice and academia where she specialised in privacy law, cybersecurity, and information technology law. She holds an LLB, LLM and PhD in law.