African ministers of ICT and communication convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 23 November 2023 for the 5th Ordinary Session of the African Union Specialised Technical Committee on Communication and ICT (STC-CICT), a biennial African Union ministerial meeting aimed at propelling Africa’s digital agenda forward
The Ministerial Session will be preceded by the meeting of experts was held from 20-22 November 2023
The august gathering will enable AU Member States to review policies and strategies in a bid to accelerate Africa’s digital transformation in line with Agenda 2063, which seeks to transform Africa into the global powerhouse of the future through inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Africa is at the cusp of a digital transformation that has the potential to greatly improve lives across the continent. The African Union's digital transformation strategy provides a vision and roadmap for harnessing technology and innovation to meet Africa's development goals.
Ahead of the meeting Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, AU commissioner for infrastructure and energy mentioned that African Union is leading human & community-centric digital transformation. “Africa must and will be at the forefront of shaping how technologies are developed and deployed to meet the needs of the people. This will require investments in digital infrastructure, skills development, entrepreneurship, and research and development. That’s what we are striving to harness at the African Union”.
For Dr Abou-Zeid, any digital transformation strategy must start with the people and communities it aims to serve. “Technology should augment human capabilities, not replace them. Our focus is on using technology to solve real problems that Africans face, from access to education and health services to financial inclusion. Technologies like mobile money, e-commerce, and e-learning have the potential to create new opportunities if developed with the needs of African users in mind,” she added.
Citing the draft Continental AI Strategy as an example Dr Abou-Zeid further noted that the Strategy seeks to position Africa at the forefront of harnessing artificial intelligence for socioeconomic development ethically and inclusively. “By adopting a human-centric approach to AI, the Strategy aims to leverage the opportunities that emerging technologies offer while mitigating potential risks and negative impacts.”
While the potential benefits of digital transformation for Africa's development are substantial, limited resources, funding constraints, and a limited coordination present significant hurdles. With smart strategies, increased domestic investments, and improved collaboration, Africa can overcome the existing challenges and realise the promise of a digital economy.
Concrete recommendations and actions that will fast-track implementation are expected to be endorsed by the ministers. Accordingly, the Institutional Architecture and Implementation Framework for the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, a Continental Strategy for creating an enabling environment for a Digital Single Market, an AI Strategy Conceptual Framework, a Continental Child Online Safety and Empowerment Policy, the Malabo Review Report, and a study on digitalising postal services will be presented for consideration.
The meeting will also provide a chance to examine the advancement made in executing core communication initiatives. The review will spotlight the progress in putting key communication activities into action to promote the Africa Union with an emphasis on the mandate of the organisation, Agenda 2063 and building the corporate brand identity to increase visibility and outreach.