Africa regional launch of the UNCTAD’s new Digital Economy Report 2021

Research ICT Africa
11 Oct 2021

UNCTAD’s Digital Economy Report titled “Cross-border data flows and development: For whom the data flow”  highlights the need for governance that will ensure a more equitable distribution of the gains from data flows, while addressing risks and concerns.

The Africa launch of the report was hosted virtually by Research ICT Africa (RIA) on 15 October 2021, and attended by nearly 100 multistakeholder participants, including a  number of  international and regional multilateral bodies.  

The moderator, RIA executive director, Dr. Alison Gillwald said the launch followed an international virtual convening by UNCTAD, CIGI and RIA early this year,  with strong global South representation, to review the draft report. The benefits of these engagements are now evident in this comprehensive report, that was two-years in the making.

These early deliberations were supplemented by the panel of  legal and economic experts gathered for the African launch, with whom the lead author of the report Pilar Fajarnes Garces engaged following her presentation on the report highlights.

These included:

  • the data-driven digital economy is rapidly evolving amidst huge divides in digital readiness.
  • a silo-oriented data-driven digital economy is not likely to work for the interest of developing countries and that fragmentation would hamper technological progress, reduce competition, enable oligopolistic market structures in different areas and allow for more government influence;
  • the current regional and international regulatory frameworks tend to be either too narrow in scope or too limited geographically to enable cross border data flows risks; and
  • a call for international support to ensure full participation of developing countries through enhancing the capacities to create and capture value from data domestically.

The panel, comprising of the African Union Commission’s trade policy officer, Tapiwa Chauke;  UNECA’ s  Digital expert on Data Governance, Digital Identity, and Data Privacy, Linda Bonyo ;   as well as Director of Research at the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa, Dr  Adedeji Adeniran unpacked the proposed approach to innovation and economic progress and the implications for the continent.  They also highlighted the preconditions driving data-value creation in African economies including adopting  continental policy frameworks to harmonies digital and data policy for the creation of a single digital market and more equitable take-up  of the  opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area.

** The UNCTAD report is available here :