Pretoria, 10 September - The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in partnership with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) supported Global Economic Governance Africa (GEG-AFRICA), organized a workshop on “Digital Transformation in Africa: Leveraging the Promise and Addressing New Challenges” on 10 September in Pretoria, South Africa.
The workshop was attended by South African Policy makers from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), civil society, private sector, academia and experts from across the continent in digitalization, trade, human rights and development. ECA and GEG-AFRICA officials were also in attendance.
In their opening remarks, Mr. David Luke, Coordinator of ECA’s ATPC, and Ms. Nadira Bayat, Programme Director of GEG-AFRICA, highlighted that the digital economy offers great opportunity for the continent to leapfrog and overcome under-development, but also presents immense challenges in the context of the current digital divide. They emphasized that this presents a need to both harness the opportunities and overcome the challenges. This thinking reflects the chosen theme of the workshop, with the objective of informing relevant, practicable and timely policy recommendations. The two partners indicated a commitment to continue and strengthen collaboration on this important topic.
These remarks were followed by a high-level opening dialogue with interventions from Mr. Nimrod Zalk, Industrial Development Advisor to the Minister of DTI, and Mr. Dave Malcolmson, Chief Director for Regional Organizations at DIRCO. Mr. Zalk stressed that African and developing countries must take five key actions to support development in the digital age: (1) maintain policy space; (2) secure national sovereignty in data; (3) ensure a level-playing field in taxation; (4) address market concentration issues; and (5) build digital capacities, including infrastructure. Mr. Malcolmson emphasized the BRICS strong commitment to collaborate for inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution, which was the theme of the 10th BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg in July 2018.
The workshop concluded with a set of concrete recommendations to pave forward African policymaking in the digital era. These included the urgent need for revolutionary skills development to position Africans, in particular the youth and women, to participate in and gain from digitalization; horizontal integration and coordination across government and with the private sector on digital issues; and the development of a continental framework for cooperation and benchmarking on digital trade, including e-commerce.
The main outcome of the workshop was the decision to produce a summary report, which will be used to inform background documents and side events at ECA’s fifty-second session of the Conference of Ministers to be held next year in Marrakech, Morocco, under the theme “Fiscal policy, trade and the private sector in the digital era: a strategy for Africa”.
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