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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Vice-President Ansip on the conference on digital transformation in Africa

Abidjan, 28 November 2017

Monsieur le Ministre Koné, honorables invités, mesdames et messieurs,


Je suis très heureux d'être ici aujourd'hui, c'est un honneur et un plaisir pour moi.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of digital technology in Africa.

Today, around 7% of Africa's GDP already comes from the digital economy.

That share is likely to grow.

For 2017, the World Bank forecasts that the world's fastest-growing economy will be Ethiopia.

Its GDP is projected to grow by 8.3%, against a global growth forecast of 2.7%.

Tanzania's GDP growth is projected at 7.2%, with five other countries in the 6-7% range: Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Rwanda.

Digital can help to develop and grow businesses, create economic growth and opportunities, generate jobs and reduce social inequalities.

That is its power and potential.

I have always seen Africa as a continent of entrepreneurs.

It is now going through its own digital revolution.

Take the rapid growth of M-Pesa. This is now the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world.

M-Pesa was launched in Kenya in 2007 and is now available in 10 countries - mostly in Africa but also in Europe - Albania and Romania.

I mention M-Pesa because it is a great example of how digital technology can help people.

It provided a service that people needed.

It was useful and innovative; it solved problems.

It lifted 2% of Kenyans out of extreme poverty.

It brought financial inclusion to the whole country.

I am a firm believer in using technology to promote sustainable development, to reduce socio-economic inequalities, to give everyone access to digital opportunities.

Europe can learn a lot from the African experience. In fact, when it comes to digitisation, our two continents face many of the same challenges and barriers.

We both have a need for widespread access to connectivity, to get more people online, teach more digital skills and to support tech startups as they seek investment to scale up.

In Europe, we recognise the impact of digital technologies and services in all countries, societies and economies.

That is why we made digital an integral part of the EU's development policy: to help create employment and stimulate growth.

This policy focuses on four areas that combine digital innovation with the EU's broader development goals.

The first is to ensure access to affordable and secure broadband, promoting regulatory environments that are geared towards competition and protecting the rights of end-users.

Then, digital literacy and skills: to develop local digital economies, bridge the digital knowledge divide and better prepare the workforce.

Supporting entrepreneurs and digital innovation will help to solve local problems, generate growth and jobs and build digital economies.

Here, Europe's DSM assists – by creating cooperation opportunities between entrepreneurs from Africa and the EU.

Lastly, we will promote the use of digital technologies and services across sectors as a further push towards sustainable development.

This should increase accountability, transparency, governance – and help to empower women.

It will assist management of vital resources like water, food and energy.

To sum up: this is about turning digital into the 'norm' across all areas.

It is about integrating digital technologies and services everywhere – all based on the premise that people should be able to go online via a quality, affordable and reliable connection.

Digital should be a given for everyone. In Africa, in Europe, no matter where.

During the day, you will discuss areas where digital can help development:

- energy: how digital can improve efficiency and integrate renewables into energy supply;

- smart cities: where digital can improve public services like transport and waste disposal;

- big data: where faster and better data processing can raise industrial productivity.

These are just a few examples of what digital technology can achieve.

I also know that we can do more together - Europe and Africa - to highlight the benefits of digitisation.

That is true for both public and private sectors. Government as well as business.

After all, it is the main point of being here today.

I think it is a great opportunity to work together to develop digital skills and promote science, technology and innovation.

It is also an occasion for EU and African countries to create a common vision, to build a bridge between national digital economies and Europe's DSM.

In the spirit of digital cooperation, I wish you a successful conference.          

Thank you.


For More Information: SPEECH/17/4962



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