August 5, 2022 - 5 minutes read

The AU Data Policy Framework: Africa’s solution to data emancipation?

By Amrit Labhuram

The data policy framework for African countries seeks to maximise the benefits of a data-driven economy by creating an enabling policy environment for private and public investments necessary to support data-driven value creation and innovation. 

The document, if implemented accordingly, will increase data policy harmonisation and improve data flows across the continent.

Establishing an enabling environment as envisioned within the policy framework will require collaboration between in-country sectors, institutions and stakeholders. Furthermore, there is a need for alignment of divergent development priorities. 

The harmonisation of policy across the continent in a manner that provides the scale and scope required to create globally competitive markets is essential to ensuring African countries control their fate in the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). 

The policy will need continental, as well as international cooperation to develop the key enabling pillars of the AU Data Policy Framework:

  • Ensure member states develop a cohesive continental legal ecosystem that include:
    • Bill of Rights – Privacy, Freedom of expression and Access to information
    • Competition law 
    • Cybersecurity law 
    • Data protection law 
    • Electronic transactions law 
    • Intellectual property law
  • Development of key data infrastructure and digital identity projects.
  • Independent and ethical regulators in the following areas:
    • Data Protection;
    • Competition;
    • Consumer protection; and
    • Financial services
  • Conceptualise and implement existing coherent continental policies on:
    • Taxation;
    • Competition; and 
    • Trade
  • Conceive universally applicable data governance standards. 

A few of the key data policy recommendations to AU member states include:

  • Ratification of the AU Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection as soon as possible to serve as the foundational step for the harmonisation of data processing;
  • To cooperatively enable data to flow on the continent while safeguarding human rights, data protection, upholding security and ensuring equitable sharing of the benefits; 
  • Promote transversal data policy and agile regulation to navigate the emergence of new dynamic data-driven business models that can foster intra-Africa digital trade and  data-enabled entrepreneurship; 
  • To establish a coordination mechanism and body that oversees the transfer of personal data within the continent, in collaboration with the African Network of Data Protection Authorities (RAPDP);
  • Create co-jurisdictional frameworks for the coordination of autonomous competition, sector, and data regulators to regulate the data society and economy effectively, formulate, implement, and review data policy in a dynamic, forward-looking and experimental way;
  • Promote interoperability, data sharing, and responsiveness to data demand through the setting of open data standards in data creation, conform to the general principles of anonymity, privacy, security and any sector-specific data considerations to facilitate non-personal data, and certain categories of personal data accessible to African researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs;

The policy framework presents opportunities for countries to ensure that their laws proactively enable access to data for developmental, innovative and competitive purposes. 

In next week’s Vellum we will explore the enablers that drive value in the data economy as per the Policy Framework, including recommendations and governance models for Africa’s cross border data flows. 

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