UNCTAD eWeek 2023 | African approaches to Cross-border Data Flows 

While opportunities abound in harnessing data for economic growth, multifaceted challenges beckon a concerted effort. Anchoring strategies in local contexts, fostering collaboration, bolstering data literacy, and forging harmonized regulations emerge as pivotal pathways toward a vibrant digital landscape in Africa.

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At the UNCTAD eWeek 2023 session titled ‘African Approaches to Cross-border Data Flows,’ experts offered insights into the complex landscape of digital trade, data protection, and governance in Africa. The discussions unveiled different viewpoints on the role of digital connectivity, the challenges in adopting global data protection models, and the critical importance of comprehensive strategies tailored to Africa’s unique cultural and regulatory contexts.

Digital trade’s potential for economic development

Kholofelo Kugler focused on the immense potential of digital trade in fostering economic growth across Africa. Kugler emphasized the pivotal role of digital connectivity in reducing trade costs, projecting a promising $300 billion digital economy by 2025. However, Kugler underscored the critical need for robust data protection laws and regulatory frameworks to harness these benefits fully.

Linda Bonyo delved into the complexities of adopting global regulations like GDPR in an African context. Recognizing cultural disparities in privacy and data management, Bonyo advocated for harmonized legislation while respecting individual countries’ needs. Challenges with cross-border movement and infrastructure limitations were highlighted, underlining the need for a nuanced approach.


Opportunities and challenges in data utilization

Bitange Ndemo presented an optimistic view, spotlighting data’s vast potential across sectors like finance, agriculture, healthcare, and e-commerce. However, Ndemo cautioned that while leveraging data is crucial, it must align with fair practices, collaboration, and innovative regulatory frameworks for a unified digital market.

Perspectives on data protection and governance

Talkmore Chidede reiterated the importance of data protection and governance in Africa, drawing parallels with GDPR’s influence and the evolving landscape. Chidede emphasized the critical need for increased data literacy and collective action to optimize Africa’s position as an untapped data market.

Industry insights and challenges in regulation

Abdesslam Benzitouni shared Jumia’s (Pan-African technology company) perspective, emphasizing data privacy, cybersecurity, and adaptation to varied regulations across African countries. Jumia’s experience highlighted the necessity for balancing data protection and business facilitation, along with addressing challenges like counterfeit products and fraud attempts.

Kenya’s Ssance on data protection and trade

Tevin Gitonga shed light on Kenya’s commitment to data protection through the Data Act. Gitonga outlined the challenges surrounding data usage in elections and digital lending, advocating for efforts to create a favorable trade environment through data protection measures.

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