Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has launched a new Africa Strategy dedicated, among other goals, to ‘lend[ing] structural support to the achievement of the development goals set by the African Union (AU) and its member states’.
Titled ‘Shaping the future with Africa’, the strategy notes that Germany’s cooperation with Africa will be based on respect and reciprocity, and anchored into Africa’s priorities and initiatives. Moreover, ‘the BMZ wants to engage in a dialogue with Africa rather than about Africa. It advocates for the voices of African states and the AU to be heard appropriately within multilateral fora.’
Digital transformation features among the focus areas for development cooperation (as part of a broader cluster titled ’employment, fair trade, migration and digital transformation’). First and foremost, Germany intends to contribute to the growth of digital economies across Africa by providing support in areas such as (a) enhancing relevant economic and political frameworks; (b) creating digital markets; (c) enabling secure, universal internet access and bridging digital divides; (d) fostering legal standards and data privacy regulations; (d) stimulating the creation of jobs in the ICT sector. Mobilising investments in digital infrastructures and supporting the implementation of the African Common Free Trade Area are also envisioned.
But supporting digital transformation across Africa relates to more than the digital economy. BMZ will also be directing its development cooperation towards supporting (a) enhancing women’s economic participation, including through providing training for women with a special focus on digital expertise; (b) the digitalisation of healthcare; and (c) the digitalisation of the public sector and the use of digital technology to strengthen political participation.
The US government has launched a Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative dedicated to ‘expand[ing] digital access and literacy and strengthen[ing] digital enabling environments across the continent’. The USA plans to dedicate over US$350 million to this initiative, which is expected to support the implementation of both the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy and the US Strategy Towards Sub-Saharan Africa. DTA’s objectives revolve around three pillars:
- Digital economy and infrastructure: (a) expanding access to an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet; (b) expanding access to key enabling digital technologies, platforms, and services and scale the African technology and innovation ecosystem; (c) facilitating investment, trade, and partnerships in Africa’s digital economy.
- Human capital development: (a) facilitating inclusive access to digital skills and literacy, particularly for youth and women; (b) fostering inclusive participation in the digital economy; (c) strengthening the capacity of public sector employees to deliver digital services.
- Digital enabling environment: (a) strengthening the capacities of authorities and regulators to develop, implement, and enforce sound policies and regulations; (b) supporting policies and regulations that promote competition, innovation, and investment; (c) promoting governance that strengthens and sustains an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure digital ecosystem.
In early 2023, as part of the Reimagine Education Initiative, Airtel will connect 620 primary schools in Nigeria to digital learning through its partnership with UNICEF. The implementation of the project will take five years. In the first year, Airtel and UNICEF will deliver digital learning resources to the 620 identified schools: to twenty schools this December and the remaining 600 before the end of February 2023. The project will provide a reliable telecommunications network and free access to a curriculum through the Nigeria Learning Passport (NLP), an e-learning platform developed by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and Microsoft. In addition, Airtel will provide free access to the Youth Agency Market Place (YOMA) digital platform to any Airtel subscriber.
To provide a full range of mobile and data services to Filipino mobile users, a US$40 million loan has been signed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Tiger Infrastructure Philippines, Inc. As of 2021, an estimated 164 towers per 1 million people or about 27,000 telecom towers had been installed in the Philippines. To connect the unconnected, the government of the Philippines estimates that an additional 60,000 towers are needed by 2031. The loan will fund 380 telecommunications towers in the Mindanao and Visayas regions.
A recent UNICEF research brief estimated the level of internet access for children in Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as the most common barriers to connecting children to the digital world. The report classified these common barriers into three categories: infrastructure-related, resource-constrained, and adult permission-related. According to the findings, 90% of children in the five surveyed countries reported having at least one barrier to regular internet access. The most frequently mentioned barrier was the high cost of data.
The report identified three priorities for addressing the digital divide and enabling equal access to digital connectivity: investing in electricity and connectivity with a focus on marginalised communities and users; lowering the cost of connectivity and devices; and addressing cultural and social norms as barriers that prevent children and adolescents from using the internet.
A recent UNICEF research brief estimated the level of internet access for children in Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as the most common barriers to connecting children to the digital world and their consequences. The report classified these common barriers into three categories: infrastructure-related, resource-constrained, and adult permission-related. According to the findings, 90% of children in the five countries surveyed reported having at least one barrier to regular internet access. The most frequently mentioned barrier was the high cost of data.
The report identified three priorities for addressing the digital divide and enabling equal access to digital connectivity: investing in electricity and connectivity with a focus on marginalised communities and users; lowering the cost of connectivity and devices; and addressing cultural and social norms as barriers to address for children and adolescents.
Meta and Telecom Egypt, members of the 2Africa consortium, have announced the first landing of the 2Africa submarine cable at Ras Galeb in Egypt’s Red Sea, with a later landing at Port Said in the Mediterranean. The Ras Ghareb landing is one of several that will take place in the coming months as the cable is intended to cover a total of 46 sites in Africa, Europe, and Asia.
The 2Africa submarine cable system, announced in May 2020, is expected to provide seamless international connectivity for nearly 3 billion people, 36% of the world’s population, across Africa, Europe, and Asia. The 45,000 km long cable deployment is estimated to be completed in 2024.
The 2Africa consortium comprises China Mobile International, Meta, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, STC, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, and WIOCC.