October 21, 2022

Cross-Border Data Flows in Africa: Policy Considerations for the Afcfta Protocol on Digital Trade

The original Industrial Revolution was powered by steam; the second by electricity. The rise of digitisation and automation generally defined the Third Industrial Revolution, which was largely powered by oil. Today, we find ourselves in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which is largely powered and characterised by data. It can hardly be contested that data is central to today’s global economy in ways which it never has been before. Data flows across borders far more frequently than at any other point in time. Most importantly, these flows are creating or have created immense value (at least on aggregate) and are, therefore, central to businesses and business practices. They have fundamentally changed what and how much is traded, as well as with whom and how trade is conducted. Put differently, cross-border data flows have increased the scope, scale, and speed of trade.

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