Global law firm Hogan Lovells held its eighth annual Africa Forum, themed “Africa Connected”; the platform’s aim was to foster business-critical conversation necessary for Africa’s recovery, growth, and sustainability. The Forum, a leading conference for business and economic development in Africa, boasted a prestigious line-up of speakers and panellists, including business leaders and key decision makers across Africa.
The Forum agenda featured various themed sessions, where panellists shared in-depth knowledge and expertise on doing business in Africa, as well as insights into how the private and public sectors can minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a session focusing on how Africa has been shaped by technology, panellists agreed that technology and innovation have pushed the growth of Africa’s economy in recent years, so much so that governments on the continent have had to develop regulatory frameworks guiding activities in the sector. The experts expect more innovation to come, especially in FinTech.
“Technology and innovation are undoubtedly at the heart of Africa’s connectedness, but the conversation needs a broader view. Since COVID-19, with lockdowns and restrictions aimed at minimising the rapid spread of the virus but negatively impacting economies, African countries have witnessed first-hand the importance of intra-African trade in essential goods and services,” Aissatou Sylla, Senior Associate specialising in technology, media and telecommunications in the Paris office of Hogan Lovells.
African states have intensified their collaboration to break down barriers to intra-African electronic transactions and data flows, by harmonising laws on cybersecurity, electronic transactions, data protection and telecommunications.
“There is more to come, especially in the area of e-Government and FinTech. The African continent has a wide range of trade opportunities and the AfCFTA agreement has enabled both the private and public actors to come together to build on the trade opportunities that are within the continent. The agreement will also help sustainable development due to the collaboration of all countries involved,” said Sylla.
Data protection is gaining round in Africa, with more and more countries introducing legal frameworks and Privacy and data protection is still a hot topic in Africa. For example, in 2019, the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation was issued by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the country’s ICT regulator. Among the objectives behind this regulation were the protection of the privacy rights and freedoms of Nigerian citizens, on the one hand, and the promotion of local and foreign investments in the digital economy by safeguarding the information systems infrastructure against breaches and implementing internationally compatible rules, on the other hand.
In addition to protecting citizens’ privacy, having a harmonised or, at best, a uniform framework is seen as an opportunity to promote the continent’s development by allowing free flow of data within Africa, encouraging data transfers from other continents to Africa and thus boosting the use of African-based datacentres, outsourcing services, blockchain technology, e-government and fintech services.
“Harmonising the data protection statutory and regulatory framework in Africa is still on the agenda of regional organisations and some states,” said Sylla.