Calls for responsible innovation, digital development at Africa conference

Ljubljana – Addressing a virtual international conference promoting Africa-Europe ties, especially in innovation and digital development, President Borut Pahor said on Thursday digitalisation should be based on human rights, the rule of law and democratic society. Foreign Minister Anže Logar called for the development of cybersecurity.

Speaking at the 11th Africa Day, the conference hosted by the Foreign Ministry, Chatham House and the European Commission, Pahor praised Slovenia’s cooperation with African countries and regional organisations in digitalisation.

“The European Union has declared this decade a decade of digitalisation, but the latter must be based on human-friendly development,” said Pahor, stressing that any kind of digital transformation must be based on human rights, the rule of law and open and democratic society.

Logar too pointed to the challenges that new technologies and digitalisation could bring. He stressed the importance of cybersecurity development, noting both continents should strive for this, especially in the face of the Russian aggression.

“New technologies can either promote or restrict and violate human rights, so we must be extremely careful with digital transformation,” the minister warned, adding that Slovenia would be striving to prevent asymmetric digital development, which the Covid-19 pandemic had further deepened.

Firmin Edouard Matoko, assistant director-general of the Africa department of UNESCO, said that the digital revolution would bring both many opportunities and new challenges, which would call for more global cooperation and new skills.

He praised Slovenia’s progress in the digital transition, pointing to UNESCO’s first international research centre in Ljubljana.

EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen and African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Mohammed Belhocine both stressed that now was the right time for partnerships with Africa to be revived using new technologies and digitalisation.

Urpilainen added that the EU was committed to cooperation with Africa and was planning to increase investment into optical networks, submarine cables and space technologies on the African continent.