7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels



Mainstreaming digital technologies in EU development aid to help developing economies and societies benefit from the digital revolution

EDD17 - Replay - Digitalisation

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 14:00 to 15:30

Key points

  • Africa is leapfrogging the rest of the world on digitalisation and is primed to continue.
  • A predictable regulatory environment is essential.
  • The harmonisation policies on a regional level can help fuel the process.
  • Young people, especially girls, need to be encouraged to go into careers in technology to take advantage of future employment opportunities.


If the nations of Africa can ensure a predictable regulatory environment and work to harmonise their policies, they might be able to turbocharge their nascent efforts to leapfrog past the rest of the world in digitalisation, e-commerce and e-governance.

While Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile financial scheme garners much of the attention, other examples abound. Online retailer Jumia has expanded beyond its home base in Nigeria to supplant Amazon.com in over a dozen countries. Burkina Faso, Morocco, Rwanda and Senegal count among the nations making rapid strides in different areas. Borrowing a page from Estonia, Egypt saved billions of euros a year by adopting a single e-identification system.

With the moves forward in Africa, globalisation is becoming more of a two-way street where Europe can learn and borrow from experiences in Africa and other parts of the world. This can encourage greater cooperation between the European Union and the African Union. Indeed, Africa and Europe face similar challenges in creating single digital marketplaces in their respective regions.

Young people need to be trained to take advantage of the growing job opportunities that will be engendered by digitalisation across all sectors of the economy. Girls, especially, should be encouraged to go into the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and maths. Burkina Faso just entered into a public-private partnership (PPP) to boost e-governance, e-education and other e-public services in 13 provinces.

Opportunities range beyond employment. E-governance offers enormous potential. However, countries need to embark on a wide-ranging overhaul of bureaucratic processes. Just pushing old procedures on to the internet will not do the job. One positive example comes from Nigeria: a simple software program allowed the government to cross-check data about civil servants and the postal system – thereby producing huge savings that dwarfed the original investment in technology.

Fears about job losses due to new technologies are not unfounded, but the panellists seemed to agree that new opportunities will outdistance them. However, governments need to be prepared with safety nets and training programmes for those left holding the short sticks.

If African nations can guarantee sufficiently stable regulatory environments and work together to create larger regional markets, angel investors, venture capitalists and private sector investors (many keen on PPPs) will not be far behind.

Africa is not, of course, monolithic. Some countries, sectors and businesses have advanced more than others. Regional policy-makers want to spread the lessons learned in the pockets of excellence so that benefits accrue to the entire continent. 


Just as globalisation shows signs of becoming more of a two-way street between developed and developing nations, many politicians are gaining traction by denouncing internationalism. One strategy to encourage girls to go into STEM disciplines: replace the ‘hierarchical’ educational approach with hands-on, practical experiences where students can learn by doing.

Organised by

    Nivi Sharma
    Managing Director of BRCK and co-founder of eLimu
    Amani Abou-Zeid
    Commissioner for Infrastructure & Energy
    African Union Commission
    Chinenye Ezeakor
    EDD Young Leader, Nigeria
    Andrus Ansip
    Vice President for the Digital Single Market
    European Commission
    Karim Michel Sabbagh
    President and CEO
    SES S.A.
    Alexander De Croo
    Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services
    Government of Belgium
Photo gallery

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