Digitalisation is the use of digital technologies and digitised data in enterprises and organisations, with far-reaching implications for how work gets done and how customers engage and interact with operations. There can be no doubt that digitalisation is transforming business models, revolutionising societies and creating new revenue streams around the globe. Now, more than ever, we need to understand and harness the power of digitalisation, to further the global common good.
• Digitalisation will transform and revolutionise our economies and societies, and influence the way we work, live and interact. Digitalisation creates numerous opportunities. Yet, if poorly managed, digitalisation can also lead to job losses and fears among citizens and lawmakers regarding data protection, ethics and privacy, freedom of speech, surveillance, and monopolistic tendencies.
• Success in the Africa-Europe digitalisation partnership requires prioritisation of Digital4Development (D4D) strategy and improvements in innovation ecosystems, particularly to realise a safe and secure digital single market (DSM), which is the goal of both the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU). Working together, the AU and EU can foster a digital partnership that will lead to inclusive digital economies and greater human well-being on both continents.
• Digital capability and skills are necessary for the AU and EU to reach the ultimate goal of partnership in digitalisation. Without requisite digital skills, Africa will lag and miss the many opportunities that technologies and digitalisation offer for development and improved well-being.
• Data governance is a near-horizon challenge that requires urgent action. There is a need to ensure data sovereignty for the EU, but more importantly, for Africa. It is essential to view data as a new commodity, considering its importance in areas such as health, education, research, industrial innovation and agriculture.
• The COVID-19 pandemic is changing life as we know it, from education and learning to commerce and medicine. The AU and EU can take advantage of innovations and lessons learned from the pandemic to derive new approaches in, for example, governance and regulation, to further the digitalisation agenda on both continents.
• The EU can strengthen its geopolitical position by harnessing its expertise, leveraging policies and regulations, and boosting investment in the AU’s digital ecosystem. Combining its ability to set global standards and provide accompanying investments will allow the EU to navigate the intensive global competition for ideas, systems and markets in Africa. For the AU, working in a digitalisation partnership with the EU provides opportunities for learning that could advance Africa’s aspirations for a DSM, data sovereignty, regulation and governance in relation to digitalisation.
Read the full paper here.
Authors: Chux Daniels (ACET and the University of Sussex), Benedikt Erforth (DIE), Rob Floyd (ACET) and Chloe Teevan (ECDPM).
Acknowledgements: We thank the respective individuals and organisations – think tanks and academics; national policymakers from Africa and Europe; private sector, entrepreneurs and youth; and international organisations and foundations – who participated in the series of four expert meetings that informed this policy brief. Many thanks also to ACET senior fellow Klaus Tilmes for moderating the expert meetings, which took place in May and June 2020.
This paper is part of a special series on Africa-EU relations, produced by ETTG members DIE and ECDPM in cooperation with ACET.
Photo courtesy of Nicolas Raymond via Flickr.
The views are those of the author and not necessarily those of ETTG.