Vice President, U.S.-Africa Business Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Executive Director, U.S.-South Africa Business Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Executive Director, Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
June 19, 2023
Digitization has shaped the way millions across Africa shop, bank, and communicate. It has also changed the prospects of the continent’s trade landscape and has the potential to unlock new pathways for economic growth. The next step in Africa’s digital future will be regional, fulfilling the vision outlined in the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa through strong frameworks and policies offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that can help the continent get there.
How the digital economy and regional integration through the AfCFTA can transform African trade, lift economic growth, and support livelihoods across the continent dominated discussion at the latest Kenya International Investment Conference (KIICO.) At the invitation of the Cabinet Secretary for Trade of Kenya Moses Kuria and the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest)’s Managing Director June Chepkemei, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Business Center (USAfBC) was the strategic partner of this year’s conference, "Unlocking Africa's Gateway." The conference took place May 29 – 31 in Nairobi, Kenya, on the periphery of negotiations held by the AfCFTA Council of Ministers, and marked the U.S. Chamber’s second high-level delegation to Kenya this year, following this March’s AmCham Business Summit, which convened 1,200 public and private sector leaders to increase U.S.-East Africa commercial ties.
The USAfBC’s role highlighted its longstanding collaboration with Kenya’s public and private sectors and continental thought leaders, all helping to shape the conference’s AfCFTA Digital Policy Dialogue. The important workshop featured experts in digital trade and was supported by organizations renowned in Africa and around the world, like Qhala, Google, Africa Practice, Meta, GSMA, Microsoft, Trademark Africa, and AmCham Kenya. The USAfBC and our members played a key role in the conference in co-creating its AfCFTA Digital Policy workshop, the event’s main policy dialogue on how Africa can chart a path toward a single digital market and an inclusive, interconnected future.
Over 150 participants from a dozen countries attended the AfCFTA Digital Policy workshop, which included a private dialogue on the AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol currently being negotiated by African governments. The workshop also featured addresses by Principal Secretaries of Kenya’s Trade and ICT Ministries, presentations by the AfCFTA Secretariat, and a panel of private sector and development partners. Participants split into breakout sessions covering digital barriers to cross-border trade, cross-border payments and e-commerce, data governance and cyber laws, as well as critical infrastructure and emerging technologies. The main takeaways from the breakouts were compiled into a policy paper reflecting private sector recommendations and priority issues to address to ensure the Digital Trade Protocol can be a driver of intra-African trade and international investment.
The AfCFTA Digital Trade Policy Dialogue was but one of several events organized with the input of the USAfBC, as part of fulfilling its partnership under the historic MOU signed in late 2022 between the AfCFTA Secretariat and the U.S. Chamber—the only private sector organization to sign such an MOU in the world.
Both the AfCFTA and digital trade are poised to be engines of African growth. An interconnected Africa, made possible through the AfCFTA and a single digital African market, will lower barriers to business, trade, the internet, online communication, banking, health care – and much more. Connections throughout the continent are key to bridging digital divides, sparking economic growth, creating jobs, and moving all of Africa into the digital age. The U.S. Chamber stands ready to be a trusted partner and engaged advocate.
About the authors
Kendra L. Gaither serves as Vice President for the Africa Division and Executive Director for the Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.