Cross-border Data Flows and Trust
Round Table - 90 Min
The AU’s Data Policy Framework, which was endorsed in February 2022, provides a coherent approach to the challenges that arise from the increasing datafication of economic and social activities in African countries. It identifies key enablers for the creation of data ecosystems and single data markets, such as adequate policy and regulatory environment as well as institutional arrangements that need to be put in place to unlock the potential of data as a source of growth and innovation. The Framework also aims to optimise cross-border data flows within the continent through a structured data governance agenda. This agenda enables countries to harness the opportunities of digital trade while supporting a healthy flow of information and digital data that fosters fair competition and contributes to the acceleration the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), in which free trading officially commenced on 1 January 2021.
In this multistakeholder and interactive roundtable session, participants will engage with the AU Commission and other panellists on the next steps to accelerate the implementation and domestication of the AU’s Data Policy Framework, namely the respective roles and responsibilities that different stakeholders - from civil society to regional economic communities, governments, regulators, private sector actors, and the technical community - have to ensure the effective governance of data flows across the continent. The session will also explore how relevant negotiations on digital trade agreements within the AfCFTA (specifically the Phase III protocol) can harness the work already done at the continental level through policy frameworks such as the AU’s Data Policy Framework and Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa to establish policy objectives and guidelines for achieving a competitive and inclusive data market.
The session builds upon various inputs received from different stakeholder communities at other consultative sessions that have taken place over the past two years, including previous sessions at the African IGF and global IGF in Poland (2021) and Ethiopia (2022).
African Union African Union Commission Souhila Amazouz, Senior ICT Policy Officer, Information Society Division, African Union Commission (AUC) Paul Kithinji, Policy Advisor, DataCipation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Souhila Amazouz (Senior ICT Policy Officer - AUC)
Alexander Ezenagu African (Director Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA Policy and Development Centre)
Trudi Hartzenberg (Executive Director - TRALAC)- (Civil Society/Academia)
Liping Zhang - (Chief Science and Technology and Innovation Policy Section at UNCTAD)
Paul Baker (CEO - International Economics) - (Technical community)
Martin Wimmer (Director of General Development Policy Issues at the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) - Govt
Alison Gillwald (Executive Director, Research ICT Africa)
Paul Kithinji- GIZ
Paul Kithinji- GIZ
Targets: This proposal seeks to advance conversations on the promotion of data governance frameworks in Africa, including in negotiations of certain protocols for the AfCFTA in relation to data access and data flows . The policy frameworks the session will discuss - including the AU Commission’s Data Policy Framework and the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa - are directly aligned with the SDGs and aim to work towards the achievement of these developmental goals. Data and datafication processes act as cross-cutting mechanisms for enabling the SDGs, and the proposal is thus relevant to most if not all the goals. Given the growing importance of data to economies and societies worldwide, the proposal aims to explore the ways in which data governance can support the realisation of all of the SDGs. Being focused on Africa, the proposal is particularly relevant to the need to address inequalities both within and between countries and regions via more equitable and efficient use of data, for example, but also relates to other goals like how data can be used to improve people’s well-being responsibly and create new development opportunities. Lastly, the proposal also advances the opportunity for AfCFTA digital trade protocols to explicitly incorporate data as an enabler for SDGs on sustainable economic development, resilient infrastructure and sustainable consumption and production patterns by centring the conversation on the importance and means of ensuring data governance for Africa’s development and integration agenda.
The AU’s Data Policy Framework paves the way for a common continental approach for realising the strategic value of data for all Africans, while simultaneously shaping continental debates about more equitable data governance practices that support sustainable development in accordance with the SDGs. As such, African countries can use the common agenda provided by the Framework to more actively participate in and shape global discussions about dat
Given the potential significance of cross-border data flows and digital economies for Africa’s Free Trade Continental Area (AfCFTA), the implementation of the AU’s Data Policy Framework at national levels is crucial for ensuring that African countries can reap the benefits of processes of digitisation and datafication, while mitigating the risks that also accompany these processes. As such, there is a need for the AfCFTA Secretariat to take into
Enable the development of more relevant capacity-building exercises to enable relevant policymakers, regulators, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders to participate meaningfully in global, regional, and national discussions and deliberations that will shape the future global data governance landscape.
Engage and encourage relevant stakeholders including policy makers at continental, regional and national levels, to support African countries in the implementation and domestication of the AU’s Data Policy Framework, as appropriate to local needs and contexts.
Open Forum 166: The African Approach on Data Governance
Date: 11th October 2023
Time: 10:15 – 11:15 am
Moderator: Alison Gillwald (Research IT Africa)
Reported by: Paul Kithinji (GIZ)
Name of Panellists
Alison Gillwald Executive Director of Research ICT Africa (RIA)
Souhila Amazouz Senior ICT Policy Officer, African Union (AU) Commission
Alexander Ezenagu Director Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA Policy and Development Centre
Trudi Hartzenberg Executive Director Trade Law Centre (TRALAC)
Liping Zhang Chief, Science and Technology and Innovation Policy Section, UNCTAD
Paul Baker CEO, International Economics
Martin Wimmer Director, General Development Policy Issues, Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
The purpose of this open forum was to discuss the African Union’s Data Policy Framework (DPF), including its implementation. The purpose of the Framework, as introduced by the session moderator, Alison Gillwald (moderator), is to enable all AU Member States and its citizens to realise the benefits of data as strategic assets. The DPF should, panellists pointed out, be read in conjunction with developments pertaining to the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and its protocols relevant to digital trade that are currently under negotiation.
Following a brief introduction by the onsite moderator, Souhila Amazouz, Senior ICT Policy Officer at the AU Commission, provided relevant background to and contextualised the development of the DPF. She explained that the Framework aims to set the priorities, vision and principles with regards to data in order for Africans harness its transformative potential. To do so, the DPF provides for certain principles including (but not limited to) trust, fairness, accountability, and cooperation among all African members states. The Framework further calls for investments in relevant digital infrastructure to promote connectivity, the establishment of legal and regulatory frameworks, and the development of institutional arrangements. Now in its implementation phase, the DPF is supported by an Implementation Plan which has been validated by Member States and includes a Capacity Self-Assessment Tool to help countries gauge their various levels of readiness as well as identify the support they need for successful domestication of the Framework. She explained that the AU Commission has also developed Guidelines for Integration of Data Governance in the AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol this year as a part of its efforts to promote the harmonisation of data governance provisions at a continental level. These guidelines are now at the disposal of Member States and negotiators engaged in the development of the AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol and its annexures.
Next, Trudi Hartzenberg, the Executive Director of the Trade Law Centre (TRALAC), provided an update on the status of the ongoing negotiations of the AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol. She explained that digital trade became a priority of the AfCFTA negotiators in 2021. While their discussions were initially focused on e-commerce, it has since expanded to cover digital trade aspects more generally. She explained that the draft Digital Trade protocol that is currently being developed by the Committee on Digital Trade is, as a result, exceptionally comprehensive and addresses a multitude of aspects, including data governance. It also considers the uneven levels of development of policy, laws, and relevant institutions across the continent. This is reflected by chapters on market access and the treatment of digital products, the facilitation of digital trade, the broader data governance agenda and business and consumer trust, amongst other topics. In terms of next steps, she explained that the Draft protocol is expected to be reviewed by senior trade officials, who will present provisions to the Council of Trade Ministers at the end of October 2023. It is expected that the negotiations shall culminate in adoption by the AU Assembly later this year. She concluded to point out that the adoption of the Digital Trade protocol is closely related to and should be read in conjunction with the other policy frameworks, including the DPF, being developed or implemented with the aim of establishing a digital single market in Africa.
Paul Baker, the founder and CEO of International Economics and the Chairman of the African Trade Foundation, subsequently elaborated on his role of assisting the AU Commission in developing Guidelines for the Integration of Data Governance in AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol. He reiterated the importance of data governance in the realisation of the AfCFTA, and explained that under the AU Commission leadership, a set of useful Guidelines have been developed to ensure that data governance features appropriately in the negotiations of the Digital Trade protocol. The Guidelines seek to offer model clauses for use by negotiators, taking into consideration global trends, best practices and similar provisions in trade agreements at continental, regional and country levels. The Guidelines also address cross-border data transfers, the protection of personal data, open data, interoperability across jurisdictions, inclusivity and other special considerations for countries that are underdeveloped.
Next, Alexander Ezenagu, Director of the AfCFTA Policy and Development Centre, proposed a closer look at the level of development as indication of data governance in Africa. He argued that the penetration and adoption of technologies such as mobile telephony and Internet access help to indicate the availability of consumer data. He posited that for digital trade to flourish, there must be considerable access to the Internet, mobile telephony, and other similar technologies, coupled with a conducive regulatory environment that enables technology adoption. Additionally, promoting awareness of data governance principles is also critical at promoting the DPF’s adoption.
Approaching the discussion from a global, intergovernmental perspective, Liping Zhang, Chief of UNCTAD’s Science and Technology and Innovation Policy Section, briefly elaborated on the organisation’s work on data governance and commended the AU Commission for its work on helping to harmonise data governance approaches in Africa. She noted that the agenda set by the DPF will also enable African Member States to participate in ongoing discussions in different global policy fora as far as data governance is concerned. She also described UNCTAD’s work on attempting to pave the way towards a more coordinated approach between processes aimed at addressing data governance within diverse systems and noted that a significant challenge is a lack of capacity building that can deny developing countries opportunities to participate equally in data governance discussions that have global repercussions.
In addressing global challenges facing the implementation of the DPF, Martin Wimmer, the Director General of Development Policy Issues at the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), reiterated the German government’s commitment to support the AU Commission in implementing the DPF in a number of African countries, both by technical and financial means.
In conclusion, it was established that the framework paves the way for a common continental approach for realising the strategic value of data for all Africans, while simultaneously shaping continental debates about more equitable data governance. Additionally given the potential significance of cross-border data flows and digital economies for the AfCFTA, the implementation of the DPF at national levels is crucial for ensuring that African countries can reap the potential benefits from digitalisation and datafication. However, for this to happen, there must be an enabling environment where relevant capacity-building exercises to equipe policymakers, regulators, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders to participate meaningfully in global, regional, and national discussions and deliberations. Further to this, there should be increased engagement and encouragement of relevant stakeholders including policy makers at continental, regional and national levels, in their efforts to support African countries in the implementation and domestication of the DPF, as appropriate to local needs and contexts.