At the U.S.-Africa Business Forum on December 14 in Washington, DC, as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, President Biden announced the launch of a new Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative. A signature initiative of the Biden-Harris Administration, DTA will expand digital access and literacy and strengthen digital enabling environments across the continent. Working with Congress, this initiative intends to invest over $350 million and facilitate over $450 million in financing for Africa in line with the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy and the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.
Africa’s digital ecosystem offers massive potential to spur economic recovery, promote opportunity, advance social equality and gender equality, and create jobs. Africa’s digital transformation has opened new markets for U.S. exports and services; deepened partnership among African governments, the U.S. private sector, educational institutions, and the African diaspora; and increased productivity, competitiveness, and e-government service delivery. With new technologies transforming the way Africans live and work, DTA will foster an inclusive and resilient African digital ecosystem, led by African communities and built on an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet. This initiative will also seek to empower women and other marginalized people through and within the digital ecosystem. DTA aims to help countries rebuild economies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and advance U.S. national security, diplomatic, commercial, and development priorities. It will also advance commitments to invest in global infrastructure, including digital connectivity, under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.
The initiative will achieve its objectives along three core pillars:
Pillar 1: Digital Economy and Infrastructure
- Objective 1: Expand access to open, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet for African communities across sectors
- Objective 2: Expand access to and adoption of key enabling digital technologies, platforms, and services and scale the African technology and innovation ecosystem
- Objective 3: Facilitate investment, trade and partnerships in Africa’s digital economy from the African diaspora, U.S. and like-minded allies
Pillar 2: Human Capital Development
- Objective 4: Facilitate inclusive access to digital skills and literacy, particularly for youth and women
- Objective 5: Foster inclusive participation in the digital economy through digital entrepreneurship and workforce development
- Objective 6: Strengthen the capacity of public sector employees to deliver digital services
Pillar 3: Digital Enabling Environment
- Objective 7: Strengthen the capacity of authorities and the independence of regulators to develop, implement, and enforce sound policies and regulations
- Objective 8: Support policies and regulations that promote competition, innovation, and investment
- Objective 9: Promote governance that strengthens and sustains an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure digital ecosystem
As a whole-of-government effort that harnesses the diverse tools and capabilities of the U.S. Government, DTA will include initiatives by the following departments and agencies:
- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will lead interagency efforts to increase digital skills and literacy, enhance digital entrepreneurship, and strengthen public sector digital service delivery. USAID will leverage existing capabilities and networks, such as through the Young African Leaders Initiative, to mobilize digital leaders, especially women and members of other marginalized communities, across sub-Saharan Africa to foster the growth of local digital businesses and ecosystems. Beyond this work, USAID will help facilitate investment and promote business friendly reforms to support the development of the digital sector.
- The U.S. Department of State will spearhead interagency efforts to strengthen the digital enabling environment. The Department of State’s Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership will promote an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure digital ecosystem. Activities will include targeted information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure efforts, such as testing and deployment of technologies, feasibility studies, promoting supplier diversity, and the use of trusted suppliers. The Department of State will support capacity building and technical assistance, to encourage enabling environments for innovation, cybersecurity, and digital capacity building in consultation with African partners. The Department of State will invite a delegation of regulators to Washington for regulatory technical assistance, and in March 2023, the United States will hold an Open RAN workshop in Africa.
- The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) will work with its partner countries to address country-driven digital transformation priorities, harmonize regulatory and enabling environments, and attract private sector investment. MCC prioritizes long-term engagement to implement systemic changes and build the foundations of digital-driven economic growth in our African partner countries. To advance inclusive and resilient growth, MCC will ensure that digital skills and services reach underserved communities, youth, and women; promote digital innovation; and harness the private sector to drive economic growth and reduce poverty.
- The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is committed to supporting private sector investment in projects that expand access to affordable internet and telecommunications, as well as projects that leverage technology to fuel economic growth, such as financial technology and online education. DFC is improving mobile connectivity across Africa through, for example, $100 million of financing for Africell to support mobile network upgrades and expansions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Gambia, and Sierra Leone to make mobile internet services more affordable and widely available. DFC is also advancing technology infrastructure across Africa through $300 million of financing to build and expand Africa Data Centres in South Africa, Kenya, and other countries in Africa to meet a growing demand connectivity.
- The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) will support DTA under its loan, guarantee, and insurance programs, including bolstering the competitiveness of U.S. exporters through the China and Transformational Exports Program.
- Power Africa is a U.S. Government initiative that works to increase access to power in sub-Saharan Africa and has helped deliver first-time electricity to nearly 159 million people. Power Africa will engage the private sector to expand digital access and strengthen the business enabling environment for trade and investment. For example, as part of its Health Electrification and Telecommunication Alliance, Power Africa will invest $10 million to improve internet access in rural health clinics and regional health facilities.
- The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) will co-lead interagency efforts on digital economy and infrastructure. USTDA will fund grant-based project preparation and partnership-building activities to support the development of digital infrastructure across Africa. Leveraging its Access Africa initiative, USTDA will partner with U.S. industry and Africa’s public and private sectors to advance inclusive, secure, and sustainable digital infrastructure, including priority connectivity, cybersecurity, and smart cities projects. USTDA’s Access Africa portfolio has the potential to help unlock more than $1.5 billion in financing for digital infrastructure projects in close to 40 African countries.
- Prosper Africa is a U.S. Government initiative to increase trade and investment between African nations and the United States. Prosper Africa will serve as a one-stop-shop for businesses and investors, as well as coordinate interagency support, for deals in the ICT sector. Prosper Africa will engage the private sector to strengthen the business enabling environment for digital trade through the Prosper Africa Tech for Trade Alliance.
- The Department of Commerce will co-lead interagency efforts on the digital economy and infrastructure. The Department of Commerce will leverage regional digital attachés, located in South Africa and Egypt, to increase its focus on the digital sector through DTA and will co-chair Pillar 1: Digital Economy and Infrastructure with USTDA. Additionally, the Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration is pleased to announce its intention to work with the United States Telecommunication Training Institute to empower and develop the next generation of telecommunications and ICT leaders in Africa. The program will include a networking and mentorship event in Washington, DC, for young African leaders with U.S. tech, start-up, and government representatives, followed by a training workshop in Africa to help build out skills, knowledge, and digital leadership.