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Briefing Notes (series)

Building strategic European digital cooperation with Africa


Chloe Teevan, ECDPM brief, September 2021

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To become a key digital partner to the African Union and to African countries, the European Union and its member states will need to be both more strategic and more focused in their approach to digital cooperation with Africa. This should include scaling up a unified ‘Team Europe’ approach beyond the sphere of development cooperation, developing a much stronger understanding of digital ecosystems in African countries, and ensuring that the EU’s digital ambitions are reflected in the programming of the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI-Global Europe). This policy brief traces the EU’s evolving approach to digital policy in external action and puts forward recommendations about where the EU might add value. It is part of a new strand of work at ECDPM on EU-AU and Europe-Africa digital cooperation.

Digital policy in external action is still a relatively new topic for the EU, but has been growing in relevance – both internally and externally – due to geopolitical concerns. These include the realisation that the EU is falling behind the US and China as a digital industrial actor and the hope of playing a role in shaping what the EU terms a ‘human-centric approach’ to global digital governance: an approach marked by a strong focus on making technology work for citizens and protecting individual liberties. These concerns strongly influence the EU’s approach to digital cooperation with Africa, alongside traditional development concerns. Demand from Africa for digital investment is strong due to the importance of new technologies for economic and human development, but a growing number of African voices are demanding that digital investment should take place on Africa’s terms.

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Photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio via Unsplash.

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EU foreign and development policyBriefing Notes (series)African Union (AU)European Union (EU)