Promoting a multi-stakeholder approach in the Africa-Europe digital partnership


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The Connected Africa Summit (CAS), which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 21-25 April 2024, was one of the year’s most important conferences to shape Africa’s digital transformation. The European Union and its Member States profited from this opportunity to have a dialogue with African partners on key areas of digital cooperation. The “Team Europe” delegation was coordinated by the Digital for Development (D4D) Hub and consisted of representatives from the European Commission and seven of its Member States.

In addition to policymakers, however, the D4D Hub also invited members of its advisory groups to join its delegation at CAS. The D4D Hub advisory groups are formal structures that allow the private sector, academia, and civil society to have a formal dialogue with Team Europe to jointly work towards a human-centric digital transformation. Therefore, the activity’s objective was to ensure that different stakeholder groups could have a say in the discussions on the Africa-Europe digital partnership.

“My main takeaway from the event is that there is a lot of work ahead of us and we urgently need meaningful and dynamic partnerships to foster trust and co-ordinated digital interventions from both Africa and Europe,” said Shamira Ahmed, founder and executive director of the Data Economy Policy Hub (DepHUB), and chair of the D4D Hub civil society and academia advisory group.

“I’m confident that by leveraging each other's expertise and resources, both regions can enhance development cooperation to address common transnational challenges such as infrastructure development, technology transfer, robust data governance, and policy harmonisation,” she added.

“Having the private sector taking an active part in the discussions will give a more inclusive and multi-stakeholder approach to Africa-Europe cooperation,” said Paul Mbua, founder of Zixtech Hub and chair for Africa of the D4D Hub private sector advisory group. “The private sector brings to the table lots of experience in co-creation and implementation.”

Photo: Shamira Ahmed speaking at the Connected Africa Summit. Photo credit: Connected Africa Summit 2024

Advocating for the prioritisation of gender and the responsible use of AI

In addition to their direct discussions with representatives of European and African institutions, Shamira Ahmed and Paul Mbua also had the opportunity to speak at sessions organised by the D4D Hub in partnership with Smart Africa. Shamira Ahmed, from her side, participated in a panel on female leadership in the ICT sector. During her intervention, she advocated for gender equality and inclusivity in digital transformation efforts. “This includes implementing gender-responsive policies, investing in digital skills training for women and girls, and creating supportive environments for women's entrepreneurship in the tech sector,” she explained.

Paul Mbua, from his side, participated in a session on AI regulation in Africa, where he called for the continent to take a proactive approach on how to develop a thriving AI ecosystem while guaranteeing the responsible use of technology. “We need a strategic plan on how we want to deploy and benefit from AI in Africa,” he said. “Once that is clear, there is no need to reinvent the wheel when thinking about regulation. We can build on existing experiences like the European AI Act or the African Union’s AI Framework.”

Photo: Paul Mbua speaking at the Connected Africa Summit. Photo credit: Connected Africa Summit 2024

Taking the multi-stakeholder approach to the next level

Through their involvement in the D4D Hub advisory groups, Shamira Ahmed and Paul Mbua are in the driving seat to foster a demand-driven and bottom-up approach to multi-stakeholder engagement across all D4D Hub work streams.

For Shamira Ahmed, chairing the D4D Hub civil society and academia advisory group is a means to work towards more informed, inclusive, and effective digital policies and programmes. “CSOs and academia play pivotal roles in shaping governmental agendas and policies. They provide evidence-based research, advocacy, and grassroots engagement, amplifying voices that might otherwise go unheard,” she said.

For Paul Mbua, his involvement as chair for Africa of the D4D Hub private sector advisory group allows him to identify opportunities to strengthen African companies’ contribution to a human-centric digital transformation and to share knowledge and insights on how African companies can support Team Europe’s digital cooperation efforts in the continent, particularly regarding entrepreneurship and innovation. “Any policies and programmes to support Africa’s digital ecosystem should involve start-ups and SMEs – they have a very important role to play promoting human-centric local innovation,” he said.

“Involving multiple stakeholders beyond the public sector and enabling them to be effectively involved in co-creating interventions will be key if we want to achieve our ambitions under the African Union's Agenda 2063 and the European Union’s Global Gateway strategy”, concluded Shamira Ahmed.