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African Union Leading On Data Economy In Africa … For Africa-AUC Commissioner

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By Angeline Mgbele, Correspondent Abuja

For Africa, Data is an essential resource for economic growth, competitiveness, innovation, job creation and societal progress. It is used in almost every sector, its applications ranging from supporting small farmers in increasing their productivity to modelling and tracing the spread of pandemics such as COVID-19 and the improved management of basic services such healthcare, water and electricity supply chains, so says the African Union Commission(AUC) Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid .

Abou-Zeid, made these remarks recently at the Launch event of the ‘Africa Data Leadership Initiative (ADLI)’, organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa(UNECA), Smart Africa and Future State. This initiative aims at ensuring the data economy drives equitable growth and social progress across the Continent.

“Data is the world’s biggest, most expensive and most important commodity. It narrows both information and time gaps. Africa cannot afford to ignore its untapped potential for decision, policy making and socio-economic development” said Dr. Abou-Zeid

The Commissioner added that “Data science in Africa, for Africa led by Africa-based scientists, can play a key role in addressing many of the Continent’s challenges.”

In this context, defining a unified approach to trusted data sharing, both within and across borders, is central to ensuring data generated in Africa meets the aspirations of Africans.

“Cross-border flow of personal data, which will be amplified by the development of the digital economy, calls for intra-Africa cooperation to enforce data protection legislation. African Union passed decisions related to safe use of African data economy” stressed Dr. Abou-Zeid.

Commissioner Abou-Zeid warned about major risks to individuals and governments, particularly in countries with weak regulatory and institutional frameworks and further stressed the need to develop effective cooperation frameworks for data protection, supported by a common continental framework of enforceable data protection regulations under the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection Convention. This is necessary to protect personal data transferred across borders and to ensure that African citizens can assert their rights when personal data travel across borders.

According to the AU Commissioner, there are fragmented efforts in Africa to fill the skills gap needed for more highly trained data professionals – data workers who collect, store, analyze, interpret and visualize data.

“Today’s launching of this peer learning and exchange network will go a long way in establishing a homegrown and dynamic “safe space” in which African policymakers, digital rights experts, and entrepreneurs can learn together and from each other, collaboratively problem solve, and share experiences” emphasized Dr Abou-Zeid

The ADLI network will support the capacity development needs of African policymakers and exchange of best practices in Africa with the objective of empowering them to carry out the mandate to enable an upsurge in the data economy of Africa.

“ADLI will help us discuss and agree on how we can use data to advance societal needs and growth without opening it to abuse. Data economy has to work for all stakeholders across Africa.” said Ms. Priya Vora, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Future State.

Commissioner Abou-Zeid also called upon all Member States to ratify the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection Convention, and for existing national strategies to be revised to become more inclusive of all data communities.

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