From 5 to 6 October, the East African Community (EAC) and the European Union (EU) held the 1st Regional Conference on Digital Transformation in East Africa at the EAC headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. Both parties committed and agreed to foster a human-centric digital transformation in East Africa to utilise digital technologies and innovations for regional integration.
The conference, facilitated by the Digital for Development (D4D) Hub, brought together key stakeholders from the EAC region and European partners. it aimed to assess the region's current state of digital transformation and explore opportunities through a "Team Europe" initiative.
The conference identified seven strategic areas of engagement, including connectivity, data governance, e-governance/cybersecurity, e-commerce, information communication, telecommunication regulations, digital innovation, and digital skills, in line with the priorities of the 6th EAC Development Strategy, which seeks to expedite digital transformation in East Africa.
Based on these areas of engagement, a joint roadmap was developed to guide cooperation between EAC and Team Europe. Short-term actions include boosting the data economy across borders as well as benchmarking and project development of green and secure data centres, establishing comprehensive electronic cross-border health services, and developing cross-border e-payment systems.
The EAC Secretary General, Hon. Dr Peter Mutuku Mathuki, who officially opened the conference, hailed the European Union as EAC’s long-standing strategic partner. Further, he said that the EAC’s primary goal is to develop a regional digital market for digital trade in East Africa. He added that the "going digital" initiative is crucial for the development of the region, as well as for the effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
H.E. Christine Grau, the EU Ambassador to Tanzania, emphasised Team Europe's determination in its commitment to supporting the digital transformation of East Africa and global partners. She said, “The Global Gateway programme, launched in 2023, demonstrates our commitment to this approach. Through "Team Europe" initiatives between EU institutions and Member States, we aim to mobilise up to EUR 300 billion in investments in digital infrastructure, climate and energy, transport, health, education, and research. Within this framework, the D4D Hub plays a crucial role, focusing on the digital pillar of the Global Gateway strategy.”
The significance of the conference was further underscored by the simultaneous launch of the Digital Economy Package by the EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, in Nairobi on 5 October. This event emphasised the EU's commitment to digital transformation in East Africa, reaffirming its dedication to nurturing innovation and fostering connectivity within the region.
Additionally, the Head of Regional Development Cooperation at the German Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Mr Johannes Sperrfechter, highlighted Germany's interest in teaming up with the EU and other EU member states to further strengthen the support to EAC on digital transformation in line with its needs and priorities. He added that GIZ, on behalf of Germany, implements EAC technical cooperation projects, including digital projects, to harness the full potential of liberalisation as an enabler for competitiveness, innovation and productivity in the region.
The conference hosted deep dive “design sessions” between the EAC Secretariat, Partner States and the EU, featuring discussions on e-governance, cybersecurity, data governance, digital trade, e-commerce and e-payments. The sessions facilitated a co-design approach, brought out key recommendations and identified areas for collaboration.
Find the press release here.
Find more information on German Development Cooperation here.