The transformation of China-Africa digital development and cooperation

China to support Africa in raising the level of digitisation in the public and corporate sectors and promote cloud computing

In Summary

•Africa's first 5G standalone commercial network, undertaken jointly by Chinese and South African companies has been constructed.

•China and Africa are now work towards establishing a community of shared future in cyberspace through formulating and implementing a platform, the China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation.

Senegal President Macky Sall at the national data, financed and built with equipment and technical support from China. The centre will serve both the public and private sectors, and offer a cheaper infrastructure to Senegal's growing community of tech startups.
COOPERATION: Senegal President Macky Sall at the national data, financed and built with equipment and technical support from China. The centre will serve both the public and private sectors, and offer a cheaper infrastructure to Senegal's growing community of tech startups.

With the challenges brought by Covid-19 pandemic, the world has more than ever have appreciated and embraced digital technologies in their various forms and uses.

The role played by digitisation can no longer be gainsaid in forming and strengthening initiatives to digitally grow both public and private sectors of the economy.

Indeed, the recent virtual China-Africa Internet Development and Cooperation Forum could not have been held at a more opportune moment. The unprecedented advances of new-generation digital technologies have transformed the means of social production, created new possibilities in our life, and opened up new areas of state governance. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the digital economy has bucked the trend and provided an important driver for global recovery.

The Sino-Africa digital forum follows the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against Covid-19 last year when President Xi Jinping stressed that China will explore broader cooperation with Africa in such new business forms as digital economy, smart city, and 5G.

These sentiments were in tandem with comments made by Maureen Mbaka, the Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, during the China-Africa Media Cooperation Forum 2020, under the theme “China-Africa Media Cooperation in the digital era”.

Like China has done through its media, Africa is keen on telling the African story from its own African point of view and remains committed to such aspiration. 

It is paramount for the media in Africa to stand up for and defend African values, and the African experience by giving it expression, giving it a voice, and authenticating it professionally using the emerging digital platforms as it has done through liberal media over the last decades.

African students take e-commerce lessons in a college in Chongqing, on May 28, 2020.
African students take e-commerce lessons in a college in Chongqing, on May 28, 2020.

Since 2020, the China has helped Africa leapfrog its Internet development. Africa's first 5G standalone commercial network, undertaken jointly by Chinese and South African companies has been constructed.

Senegal's National Data Center supported by Chinese funding and technologies, has been officially launched. The Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) has helped African products reach Chinese consumers. Huawei's "Seeds for the Future" programme and Alibaba's "Africa's Business Heroes Competition" have also contributed to the training of young African professionals in the Internet industry.

China’s promise

  • China will strengthen the digital infrastructure to unclog the information artery of economic and social development in Africa by sharing its digital technologies to promote digital infrastructure connectivity.
  • China will support Africa in raising the level of digitisation in the public and corporate sectors and promote industrialisation by applying new technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and mobile payment.
  • China will implement the "Talented Young Scientist Programme", the "Cirrus Innovative Talent Exchange Programme" and other initiatives to step up China-Africa cooperation on distance education and provide further support for Africa in training young talents in digital-related fields.
  • China will support African countries in applying digital technologies to transportation, medical care, finance and other livelihood areas, building "smart cities", and leveraging digital technologies to strengthen state governance and control the pandemic.
  • China will work with the African side to strengthen dialogue and communication in such areas as cybersecurity emergency response and Internet-related legislation, shape an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for digital development, and explore and formulate global rules on digital governance.

Through China’s inspiration, Kenya has made great efforts to create the necessary infrastructure needed in transmitting information to citizens including successfully overseeing the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting.

Kenya has invested heavily in modernising its ICT infrastructure aimed at hastening growth, and bringing services of both levels of government closer to Kenyans. This will help in helping the country’s economy to take-off.

Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Dr. Zhou Pingjian delivering his speech virtually during the China-Africa Cooperation Forum held in Nairobi on November 17, 2020.
Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Dr. Zhou Pingjian delivering his speech virtually during the China-Africa Cooperation Forum held in Nairobi on November 17, 2020.
Image: File

The Kenya Government recognises the centrality of digitisation not only in media but all sectors of the economy. Through the ministry of ICT the government is currently undertaking several project aimed at incorporating digital concepts in the daily lives of Kenyans through growing digital literacy and growing businesses.

Under its digital literacy programme, for instance, the government initiated the programme out of the conviction that technology has the power to bring about systemic change in basic and higher education by transforming teaching and learning through integrating technology in the learning environment.

China and Africa are now work towards establishing a community of shared future in cyberspace through formulating and implementing a platform, the China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation.

The writer is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi based research and development communication think tank.