July 5, 2022

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Africa-China: Strategic Digital Cooperation

For more than a year and a half, the “international order” was unveiled, revealing that the economy is not always in the service of human well-being, thanks to the global health crisis. This epidemic has, above all, manifested inequality locally and globally, even in basic human areas such as the right to health care. Africa is primarily the supplier / exporter of raw materials, the first importer of services and processed goods and the “borrower” of capital. The new Africa-China cooperation is part of an alternative logic, which is completely different. This is especially true in the digital field.

Avoid the “digital divide” on a global scale. In fact, new information and communication technologies are a means, but it is not an end in itself. It all depends on consciously, clearly and collectively defined goals. They can contribute to the worsening of structural inequalities in “north-south relations” and, conversely, they can contribute to the emergence of balanced and, above all, equitable international relations.

Foreign Minister Deng Li, who attended the China-Africa Internet Development and Cooperation Forum, spoke at the forum’s opening ceremony. The talk summarizes China’s official vision for digital cooperation with the African continent. “The rapid development of the new generation of digital technologies has created new changes in production, created new spaces for human activities and expanded state administration into new areas.” The current global epidemic is a factor accelerating the growth of the digital economy.

Through President Xi Jinping, China has officially announced its readiness to work with Africa to expand cooperation in the digital economy, smart city, 5G and other new initiatives. In fact, already, in 2020, the construction of the first independent 5G business network in Africa was launched, thanks to a collaboration between a Chinese company and a South African company. The Senegal National Data Center, built with financial and technical support from China, has officially opened. The Electronic Word Trading Platform (eWTP) introduced African products to the Chinese people. In addition, other initiatives such as Huawei’s “Seeds for the Future” and Alibaba’s “Business Leaders in Africa” ​​have contributed to the training of young African talents in the Internet industry.

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So the time is ripe for the integration of achievements and the strategic framework of digital cooperation between Africa and China. In early 2021, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on China and Africa to jointly build a “digital Africa”. More explicitly, the Chinese initiative aims to create a “shared future community” between China and Africa in cyberspace. In fact, China wants to develop and implement the China-Africa joint venture with Africa on digital innovations. This partnership is not synonymous with “paternalism”. China and African nations, truly equal partners, are called to build together and create a new international movement for change. And these are not simple declarations of good intentions.

Capitalizing on profits, China is proposing a plan around six well-expressed axes. The first print aims to strengthen the digital infrastructure to build IT arteries in support of economic and social development. It is a question of sharing the results of research in digital technologies and promoting the interconnection of digital infrastructure. Chinese companies will be encouraged to collaborate with their African partners to build digital infrastructure such as optical backbones, cross-border connections and new generation communication networks. Digital advancement will be mobilized for the benefit of the most remote parts of Africa to connect the “last mile”.

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Thus, digital technology is aimed at improving living conditions in the service of human beings. The second axis will help improve the digital economy while promoting the integration of digital technologies into the real economy. This is an example of a “digital proxy”. Based on the level of digitization of public services and businesses and the development of industrialization driven by new technologies such as information technology, cloud, artificial intelligence, Internet, the progress of research and innovative solutions will be definitively assessed by quantity and quality implications. Things and mobile fees. This should be reflected in the strengthening of e-commerce, the entry of quality African products into the Chinese market and the acceleration of the integration of African information and industry chains through cross-border e-commerce.

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The third edition of the project aims to foster digital education to overcome the “talent barrier” in digital innovation. These include programs such as the “Talented Young Scientist Project”, the International Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program (SIRUS Project), or programs to strengthen distance education, digital innovation for the benefit of African professionals, and training young Africans in digital technology. There is no question of creating pro-links.Partners need to gradually benefit from each other’s work and at the same time learn to walk alone and together.The fourth axis, linked to the former, aims to promote digital integration in the service of Africans, especially by using digital technologies to promote social well – being. Not to mention public transport, medical care, financial services, the fight against epidemics, and the public administration system. Axes must be integrated and strengthened to ensure better security and transparency for digital security and digital management.

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In this regard, the initiative for the collective construction of the future community shared in cyberspace and the global initiative on data security can be joined with Africa as a full cast in the “Global Digital Dialogue”. In fact, through these two initiatives, dialogue and communication on cyber security and emergency responses to laws and regulations can be strengthened. The environment for digital development. The rules of “Global Digital Management” should be the result of collective discussion and development, without exception. The sixth and final printing of China’s proposed project for Africa aims to set up cooperation platforms to promote digital advancement through exchanges in all sectors. It is a question of building and sustaining Sino-African cooperation efforts by establishing a permanent high-level dialogue on digital cooperation. The “Smart Africa” system is a definitive illustration of this orientation. The same goes for activities like “China Innotor for Young African Scientists”. The plan to create a China-Africa Cooperation Center for Innovation is moving in the same direction.

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The Africa-China partnership is part of the short- and medium-term. Therefore, immediate actions resulted in the implementation of optical backbone programs. Beginning in September, the Internet Society of China and Chinese e-commerce companies will jointly organize a season to promote African products through e-commerce. This is also the position of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum on the Pedo Satellite System, which will be dedicated to the use of advanced information technologies such as satellites and remote sensing to strengthen African capabilities in environmental protection, agricultural development and disaster monitoring. . The next three years will see the emergence and growth of practical digital collaboration that will responsibly respond to the basic and priority needs of the populations of Africa and China.