The Global Gateway and the EU as a digital actor in Africa

The EU’s approach to digital in its external action is evolving, driven by a combination of global geopolitics and an externalisation of domestic policy priorities. ECDPM’s Chloe Teevan and Ennatu Domingo explore the EU’s changing approach and argue that the Global Gateway strategy has the ingredients to help make Team Europe a geopolitical actor in the digital area.

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    Driven by a combination of global geopolitics and an externalisation of domestic policy priorities, the EU’s approach to digital in its external action is evolving.
    Authors

    Summary

    At the European Union (EU) - African Union (AU) Summit in February 2022, the EU and its member states announced a series of major initiatives for Africa under its Global Gateway strategy, promising €150 billion in investments by 2027, including investments in the area of digital infrastructure. Driven by a combination of global geopolitics and an externalisation of domestic policy priorities, the EU’s approach to digital policy in its external action is evolving. 

    This paper explores the EU’s changing approach and argues that the Global Gateway strategy has the ingredients to help make Team Europe – including the EU, its member states, the European financial institutions and the private sector – a geopolitical actor in the digital area. However, this will require delivering impact at scale whilst offering an attractive narrative through its digital diplomacy that responds to partner countries’ needs. It will also need the buy-in of the European private sector and to take their concerns seriously.

    We touch on African digital priorities at the continental level and in certain partner countries, arguing that a significant part of the European proposal must focus on tailoring its offer to these priorities and at the same time offering long-term sustainability. This means investing in not only infrastructure, but high-level digital skills, developing joint research projects with African countries and looking at integrating African economies into its digital value chains. These kinds of moves will show that the EU is serious about supporting Africa in developing a truly sustainable digital economy, thereby supporting Africa’s digital sovereignty, rather than recreating dependencies.

    Digital cooperation
    Digital economy and governance
    EU foreign and development policy
    European Union
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