AU Data Governance Policy Framework unveils strategies for intra-continental collaboration and innovation

  • 17 Nov 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Waceera Kabando

On July 28, 2022, the African Union (AU) released its Data Policy Framework. The Framework aims to provide a multi-year blueprint outlining how the AU will accomplish its goals for Africa’s digital economy. It also sets forth the AU’s vision, scope, and priorities for Africa’s data ecosystem, the regulatory policies underpinning the digital economy, and the creation of the African Digital Single Market (DSM). Broadly, the Framework provides data governance guidance for Africa’s data market by helping member states navigate complex regulatory issues. 

The goal of the Framework is to bolster intra-African digital trade, entrepreneurship, and digital innovation while safeguarding against the risks and harms of the digital economy. Data is increasingly recognized as a strategic asset integral to policymaking, private and public sector innovation, and performance management and critical for creating new opportunities.

The framework poses the following recommendations for member states to promote intra-African data flow:

  •         Enable data to flow on the continent while safeguarding human rights, data protection, upholding security and ensuring equitable sharing of the benefits;
  •         Develop a cross-border data flow mechanism that takes into account the different levels of digital readiness, data maturity as well as legal and regulatory environments of countries;
  •         Create the necessary data capabilities to take advantage of data-reliant technologies and services, including the capacity to govern data so that it benefits African countries and citizens and enables development;
  •         Develop national legislation on personal data protection and adequate regulations, particularly around data governance and digital platforms, to ensure that trust is preserved in the digital environment;
  •         Establish independent, well-resourced and effective Data Protection Authorities (DPAs), strengthen cooperation among DPAs and develop mechanisms at the continental level to develop and support institutional development to ensure a high level of protection of personal data;
  •         Develop infrastructure across the continent, leveraging existing REC regional efforts to support efficient broadband network coverage, reliable energy supply, and foundational digital infrastructure and systems, interoperable trustworthy payments, cloud and data infrastructure;
  •         Establish mechanisms and institutions, or empower existing ones, within the AU to build capacity and render technical assistance to AU member states for the domestication of this data policy framework;
  •         Build a secure and resilient cyberspace on the continent that offers new economic opportunities to mitigate risks and threats related to cyberattacks, data breaches, and misuse use of sensitive information;
  •         Raise awareness amongst policymakers about the power of data as the engine of a digital economy so as to facilitate exchanges among countries and enable knowledge sharing on data value-creation and innovation and the implications of data usage on peoples’ privacy and security;
  •         Establish an integrated national data system to enable data-driven public and private value creation, operating on the basis of harmonised governance frameworks that facilitate the flow of data necessary for a vibrant data economy;
  •         Facilitate collaboration between the various entities dealing with data across the continent through the establishment of a consultation framework within the digital ecosystem community to safeguard the interest of each actor.

The Data Governance and Innovation Annual Forum, which will be running from 17th November through 18th November 2023, is projected towards the African member states collaborating through regional institutions such as the Network of African Data Protection Authorities and relevant stakeholders towards regional and continental harmonisation of digital policies. The AU stresses that collaboration between national and regional stakeholders is necessary for African countries in their aim to become more competitive in global policy fora. As such, the Framework attempts to set the foundation for African policymakers to engage with stakeholders on a broad set of data regulation issues and prioritises intra-continental collaboration through regional institutions.

Sentiments borrowed from Mercy King’ori, Ulric Quee, Hunter Dorwart and Talkmore Chidede, LLD