IGF 2022 Open Forum #77 Implementing the AU Data Policy Framework

Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (07:45 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (08:45 UTC)
Banquet Hall A

Round Table - Circle - 60 Min


Data harbours the potential to not only support developmental goals towards the Africa We Want (Agenda 2063), but to enable the continent to recover better and more resilient from the dwindling and devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The AUC’s Continental Data Policy Framework, which was endorsed in February this year, can help African countries harness the potential of data as strategic asset for the greater good of the continent. In this interactive and multistakeholder panel session, panelists will have the opportunity to brainstorm about how diverse stakeholders – from the private to the public sector – can better collaborate to ensure the timely implementation and domestication of the Framework. The session importantly builds upon a session held at the IGF in Poland in December 2021 and at the African IGF in Malawi in July 2022 and aims to pick up on recommendations from those two sessions to work towards further implementation. Panelists will reflect upon those recommendations while discussing the ways in which the Framework can be used to improve. Data Governance capabilities and cross countries data flows to support the development of data driven economy and enhance the everyday lives of every African citizen.

Online participants will be able to ask questions and interact with the onsite participants through a specific Q&A part that is dedicated to questions from the chat and online participants who want to speak directly.


African Union Commission
Souhila Amazouz, Senior ICT Policy Officer, Information Society Division, African Union Commission (AUC) Johannes Wander, Policy Advisor, DataCipation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)


Dr. Towela Nyirenda-Jere

Head of Economic Integration at African Union Development Agency-NEPAD


Mrs. Aretha Mare

Project Manager in charge of Data Governance at Smart Africa


Mrs. Stella Alibateese

National Personal Data Protection Director: Uganda

Dr. Alison Gillwald

Executive Director of Research ICT Africa

Mr. Torbjorn

Economic Affairs Officer, E-Commerce and Digital Economy Branch, Division on Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD

Mr. Guichard TSANGOU

Director of Postal, Telecommunication and Digital Economy ECCAS 

Onsite Moderator

Ms Souhila Amazouz, Senior ICT Policy Officer, Information Society Division, African Union Commission (AUC)

Online Moderator

Johannes Wander, Policy Advisor, DataCipation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)


Johannes Wander, Policy Advisor, DataCipation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)


9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Targets: The AU Data Policy Framework represents a significant step toward creating a consolidated data environment and harmonised digital data governance systems to enable the free and secure flow of data across the continent while safeguarding human rights, upholding security and ensuring equitable access and sharing of benefits. This particularly speaks to SDG 9.b (Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities).

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The overall objective of the Africa Data Policy Framework is to raise awareness about data and its growing importance as a strategic asset for Africa economy and society and lay the foundations for the development of coherent, harmonized and integrated data governance systems that facilitate data access and cross borders data flows.

To build a shared data ecosystem across the continent, close cooperation of regional and national stakeholders is necessary in order to align the different existing strategies and policies that already exist to the AU Framework and allow a free flow of data across and within countries. Global nexuses and cooperation also need be considered to ensure that African perspectives are represented on the international level as well.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

In order to harness the opportunities of digital economy, it is necessary to harmonize data governance systems across Africa and thereby enable a data single market, which will allow for both an increased private and public data value creation.

To enable data sharing among countries and sectors, there is a need to develop data sharing and data categorisations frameworks that take into account the different types of data and their associated levels of security and privacy.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

UN IGF Session Report


Session/event: Open Forum 77: Implementing the Data Policy Framework

Date: 1 December

Time: 10:45 – 11:45

Moderator: Souhila Amazouz

Reported by: Pierrinne Leukes (GIZ)


Name of panelists:

Dr Alison Gillwald                   Executive Director of Research ICT Africa

Mrs Aretha Mare                      Project Manager in charge of Data Governance at Smart Africa

Mr. Guichard TSANGOU         Director of Postal, Telecommunication and Digital Economy ECCAS 

Mrs. Stella Alibateese               National Personal Data Protection Director: Uganda

Mr Torbjorn Fredriksson           Head, E-commerce and Digital Economy Branch at UNCTAD


The purpose of this panel, as introduced by Mrs Souhila Amazouz (moderator) as the representative of the African Union Commission (AUC), is to raise awareness of the African Union Data Policy Framework (DPF) and discuss the readiness of Africa as a continent when it comes to data usage, data governance, data ownership and how that will support the development of digital economy in Africa. The DPF is the continent’s strategic framework for data governance and aims to set the priorities, vision and principles with regards to data in order to harness its transformative potential. It also aims to empower African countries and citizens whilst safeguarding their rights, to achieve equitable and equal opportunities for all African citizens in the digital space. The objective of the DPF therefore is to provide guidance to African countries in developing comprehensive, coherent and harmonized data systems across the continent which will enable the efficient use of data and enable data to flow across countries in support of digital trade and also data driven businesses. Now in its second phase, the DPF is supported by an Implementation Plan which has been validated by member states, inclusive of a Self-Assessment Capacity Tool to help countries gauge their various levels of readiness as well as identify the support they need for successful domestication.

Mrs Stella Alibateese, as Director of the National Personal Data Protection Authority in Uganda, underscored that domestication of the Framework requires of member states to make sure that they provide for the DPF recommendations within their own policies. Once policy development is completed and the necessary legislative processes have been finalized, it will become easier for the implementing ministry to cascade it to the other ministries considering that this policy framework requires a lot of collaboration across different sectors. What follows then is a review of standards to enable interoperability and an assessment of the relevant infrastructure required. Ensuring that those needs are included in the national development plans is another imperative step to ensure that the necessary resources are made available to support implementation.

Approaching the discussion from a more regional perspective, Mr Tsangou as Director at the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), emphasized that the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are the building blocs of the African Union. In this vein, they play a prominent role in actualizing the goals of the DPF and his recommendations included operationalizing regional Internet Exchange Points, building regional data centre capacities and ensuring that Model Laws are aligned to the continental framework whilst taking into account regional specificities and needs. Key to achieving these objectives is addressing the obstacles currently prohibiting cross-border data flows between member states. According to Mrs Aretha Mare, Data Governance Project Manager, Smart Africa has conducted extensive research revealing that barriers to data flows can be broadly encapsulated by three main challenges: Lack of trust, lack of infrastructure and lack of technical capacity. Foundational institutions such as Data Protection Authorities are further hamstrung by the lack of financial resources needed to increase and ensure the required enforcement capabilities.

The principle of harmonization – a central tenet of the DPF and its Implementation Plan – will be a key driver in addressing the abovementioned challenges. Dr Alison Gillwald explained that harmonization is essential for enabling and harnessing the benefits of the data economy. It creates the economies of scale and scope needed to ensure equitable participation in the global data economy and in so doing helps guard against uneven development. The DPF makes a principled commitment to the realisation of a Digital Single Market - an integrated trade environment that we're going to see in process with the African Continental Free Trade Area - but also creating a rights preserving environment for users from the continent. By adopting an approach informed by progressive realization, low hanging fruit such as setting standards for integrated national data systems in order to unlock the public value of data can ensure that Africans share in the benefit of the data that they are producing. For too long Africa has been the recipient of the data subjects that are excluded from these markets, and it's really the commitment to harmonization that will allow stakeholders from Africa to create this enabling and trusted environment.

This scale is also needed for Africa to assert its place in the global data economy. Mr Torbjorn Fredicksson, who leads UNCTAD’s Digital Economy Branch, highlights that data can help to address many of the world's and Africa's major development challenges such as green transitions, food insecurity, pandemic preparedness, as well as more transparent and accountable governance. It holds the potential to transform research and development to improve the quality of decision making at all levels. However, should data be mishandled, the growing reliance on data may result in greater and greater inequalities. Additional risks are the continued fragmentation of the global landscape of data governance which will in turn exacerbate rising tensions among the matriarchs of the governments like China, the US and the EU, in addition to the increased fragmentation of the internet triggered by increased use of data localization requirements as an attempt to try to protect data inside the country which reduces the opportunities for internalizing the benefits of said data. These factors inform the call for a balanced global approach to data governance to help secure inclusive development gains. Reaching agreements on definitions and taxonomies for establishing terms of access with different types of data, dealing with data as a public good, exploring new forms of data governance and agreeing on principles as well as standards all require the active participation of African member states to ensure equitable benefits.

Questions from the floor related to data sharing agreements and mechanisms, increased civil society participation and the inclusion of local languages to give expression to governance in various settings – are all indicative of the desires of various actors to take up their roles in the shaping of global data flows. This is further evidence of heightened awareness of the strategic value of data and an enthusiasm to ensure that the digital dividends of data are shared in by all.