IGF 2023 Open Forum #166 The African Union Approach on Data Governance

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (01:15 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (02:15 UTC)
WS 7 – Room K

Cross-border Data Flows and Trust

Round Table - 90 Min


The AU’s Data Policy Framework, which was endorsed in February 2022, provides a coherent approach to the challenges that arise from the increasing datafication of economic and social activities in African countries. It identifies key enablers for the creation of data ecosystems and single data markets, such as adequate policy and regulatory environment as well as institutional arrangements that need to be put in place to unlock the potential of data as a source of growth and innovation. The Framework also aims to optimise cross-border data flows within the continent through a structured data governance agenda. This agenda enables countries to harness the opportunities of digital trade while supporting a healthy flow of information and digital data that fosters fair competition and contributes to the acceleration the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), in which free trading officially commenced on 1 January 2021. 

In this multistakeholder and interactive roundtable session, participants will engage with the AU Commission and other panellists on the next steps to accelerate the implementation and domestication of the AU’s Data Policy Framework, namely the respective roles and responsibilities that different stakeholders - from civil society to regional economic communities, governments, regulators, private sector actors, and the technical community - have to ensure the effective governance of data flows across the continent. The session will also explore how relevant negotiations on digital trade agreements within the AfCFTA (specifically the Phase III protocol) can harness the work already done at the continental level through policy frameworks such as the AU’s Data Policy Framework and Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa to establish policy objectives and guidelines for achieving a competitive and inclusive data market. 

The session builds upon various inputs received from different stakeholder communities at other consultative sessions that have taken place over the past two years, including previous sessions at the African IGF and global IGF in Poland (2021) and Ethiopia (2022). 


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


Souhila Amazouz (Senior ICT Policy Officer - AUC)
Aretha Mare (Project Manager in charge of Data Governance at Smart Africa) (IGO)
Alexander Ezenagu African (Director Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA Policy and Development Centre)
Trudi Hartzenberg (Executive Director - TRALAC)- (Civil Society/Academia) 
Torbjorn Fredriksson (Head of the E-commerce and Digital Economy Branch at UNCTAD)
Paul Baker (CEO - International Economics) - (Technical community)
Martin Wimmer (Director of General Development Policy Issues at the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) - Govt

Onsite Moderator

Alison Gillwald (Executive Director, Research ICT Africa)

Online Moderator

Paul Kithinji- GIZ


Paul Kithinji- GIZ


1. No Poverty
4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: This proposal seeks to advance conversations on the promotion of data governance frameworks in Africa, including in negotiations of certain protocols for the AfCFTA in relation to data access and data flows . The policy frameworks the session will discuss - including the AU Commission’s Data Policy Framework and the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa - are directly aligned with the SDGs and aim to work towards the achievement of these developmental goals. Data and datafication processes act as cross-cutting mechanisms for enabling the SDGs, and the proposal is thus relevant to most if not all the goals. Given the growing importance of data to economies and societies worldwide, the proposal aims to explore the ways in which data governance can support the realisation of all of the SDGs. Being focused on Africa, the proposal is particularly relevant to the need to address inequalities both within and between countries and regions via more equitable and efficient use of data, for example, but also relates to other goals like how data can be used to improve people’s well-being responsibly and create new development opportunities. Lastly, the proposal also advances the opportunity for AfCFTA digital trade protocols to explicitly incorporate data as an enabler for SDGs on sustainable economic development, resilient infrastructure and sustainable consumption and production patterns by centring the conversation on the importance and means of ensuring data governance for Africa’s development and integration agenda.