The African Union and the European Union have announce plans to step up digital cooperation for sustainable development in Africa following the first Africa-Europe Digital for Development (D4D) Hub Multi-Stakeholder Forum, which took place virtually on 18 March 2022, under the theme Digital Transformation for Sustainable Development in Africa.
The forum’s aim was to promote exchanges and collaboration with the private sector, enterprises, civil society organisations and experts in the digital field from both continents.
It was held one month after the sixth European Union – African Union Summit, where leaders from both continents announced a EUR 150 billion (about US$165.2 billion) Africa-Europe Investment Package, which, among other priorities, aims to accelerate Africa’s sustainable digital transformation.
This are just two of a number of recent African and European initiatives that aim to harness digital technologies for the benefit of Africa’s people, a reasonable aim given reports that only 33% of African people use the internet, compared to a world average of 63%.
In fact, say the forum participants, closing the digital divide and connecting the unconnected meaningfully has become a top priority in AU-EU relations. Joint efforts are particularly needed, they say, to ensure that women, rural populations and youth reap the benefits of digital transformation.
As for what those joint efforts amount to, we may have to wait for concrete examples, though one statistic seems quite encouraging: with 70% of Africa’s population under the age of 30, digital entrepreneurship offers untapped opportunities for youth. Those are opportunities that should be pursed – but will they be?