July 21st, 2023

Young Innovators Develop Prototypes for an East African Digital Data Exchange Mechanism (GIZ)

The ease of cross-border mobility for professionals stands as a challenge within the East African Community (EAC) Partner States. Recognising this barrier, GIZ, in partnership with the EAC, launched the Digitalisation for East African Trade and Integration (DIGEAT) project. The initiative aims to facilitate access to labour markets across the EAC Partner States for regulated professions, thereby enhancing regional integration and trade.

Seeking to develop innovative mechanisms for digital data exchange, DIGEAT conducted a three-day design thinking workshop from 3 to 5 July 2023 at Westerwelle Startup Haus Arusha (WSH). The workshop hosted young innovators and professionals from the Nelson Mandela Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), the Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (TRAPCA), and former interns from the EAC Secretariat.


The participants were tasked with the ambitious objective of developing an East African Digital Data Exchange Mechanism (EDDEM) to facilitate the cross-border mobility of engineers. They had to identify IT requirements, pre-requisites to connect to EDDEM, and generate multiple scenarios/prototypes to implement an EDDEM. In addition to this, they were asked to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each scenario and estimate development and operation costs. Lastly, the young innovators had to develop a comprehensive scenario with the best aspects of each scenario, as well as highlight the unknowns or assumptions that should be evaluated before the development.

To accomplish these objectives, the workshop deployed a human-centred approach. The strategy encouraged participants to pool their creativity and expertise through group discussions. Each group was thoughtfully formed, accounting for differences in professional backgrounds and academic training to facilitate idea sharing.

During the intensive three days, participants actively engaged with all five phases of design thinking. Through relentless brainstorming, ideation, testing, and collective refinement, they created innovative solutions. These included two notable prototypes: an EAC Recognition and Certification Integrated System backed by a blockchain database, and an EAC Professional Registration Platform. Both prototypes were strategically developed to serve as a robust digital data exchange mechanism for East Africa. The prototypes will serve as a basis for discussion and development of Terms of Reference which will be used to hire a qualified and competent firm to implement EDDEM.

The design-thinking workshop showcased the potency of collaborative thinking and user-centric design. The event not only generated innovative prototypes for the EAC Digital Data Exchange Mechanism but also equipped attendees with the skills necessary to approach future challenges in a creative and user-centred manner. As such, it stands as a significant milestone in the EAC's journey towards enhanced digital integration and trade.

Find more information on DIGEAT here

Photo: ©Maiven Studio