E-Governance Knowledge Sharing Week Connects African Digitalization Leaders

22 December 2023

On December 18-22, 2023, the Winter E-Governance Knowledge Sharing Week for African officials was held in Moscow at the HSE University. The week-long event welcomed 44 representatives from 23 African countries, international (UN Economic Commission for Africa) and regional organizations (IGAD, ECCAS) to share their experiences in digitalizing public administration and get acquainted with Russian experience and solutions in this field.

Throughout the week, African officials engaged in interactive sessions with Russian and African experts. Topics covered a wide range of crucial aspects related to digital transformation, such as financing and strategic planning, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, digitalization in sectors like education and taxation, and the utilization of geoinformation data.

Russian government agencies and companies actively participated in the event, providing valuable insights and sharing their expertise. Government bodies, such as the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, the Federal Tax Service of Russia, and the Government of Moscow, were involved in the knowledge-sharing sessions. Renowned Russian companies like Kaspersky Lab, Sberbank, Geoscan, and T8 also actively engaged in the program, presenting their experience and innovative solutions.

The knowledge-sharing event served as a platform to identify directions of further cooperation between Russia and Africa in the realm of e-governance. Priority areas for digitalization in Africa were discussed, along with opportunities for Russia to assist in achieving these goals. Plans for future cooperation were laid, setting the foundation for mutually beneficial partnerships.

On behalf of the Nigerian delegation, we really appreciate this kind invitation. We have learnt a lot and we’re going to take it home. We’re looking forward to a more cordial relationship. Another thing is: this program is not only for Russia. It has succeeded in bringing us with Africans together. We have seen ourselves, we’ve embraced ourselves under one umbrella. And I’m sure, we’re all going to take it home to be able to disseminate the knowledge we’ve learnt here,highlighted Abdulhamid Dauda, Director of the E-Government Department at the Nigerian Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, at the closing ceremony.

As a tribute to the occasion, the HSE Center for African Studies published a handbook E-Governance in Africa 2024: Opportunities and Challenges. The handbook, reviewed by Dr. Moctar Seck, Head of the Innovation and Technology Sector of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, provides an insight on the state of e-governance in Africa, existing solutions and prospects for further development. During the closing ceremony, participants expressed considerable interest in collaborating on the second supplemented edition of the handbook.

“So, we must congratulate Russia for having done this very comprehensive work, in a very objective and transparent manner. The data and the book are for Africans. And African students played an important role in the preparation of the book. I’m pleased to announce that for the next edition, we’ll be working together to cover all African countries,” concluded Dr. Seck, Head of the Innovation and Technology Sector of UNECA.

Mr. Ocero Michael, Ag. Commissioner for E-Services at the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance of Uganda, also commended the handbook:

“The book affiliated the issues which we have, and I realised that the issues are quite similar across Africa, even here in terms of where we want to get. So it helped to validate some of our programs and actually showed that we are moving in the correct direction when we compare to other countries. Us, Uganda, we realised we have moved somewhere, we looked, where we want to be, but we have moved somewhere. And this helps us to make sure we continue that path.”

Victor Manuel Esono Mbuy, Specialist of the Cabinet of Ministers for Planning and Economic Diversification of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, recognized the value of the information provided:

“This is the first time that I see so much information on African countries in one book. I read about my colleagues, my neighbours. I was very excited to know that they have made so many steps in the digital economy and e-governance. I did not have the information that they have made so many steps in e-governance development. For me, it is a great book, and we are going to use it to solve our governance, concerning what our neighbours are doing, and we can also do that, as it is possible.”

To sustain and intensify knowledge exchange, the E-Governance Knowledge Hub website was developed. The website provides information on e-government development in African countries, news articles, country profiles, analytics, and personal accounts for participants allowing them to share presentations and materials from the event.

During the closing ceremony, Nikita Anisimov, Rector of HSE University, honored participants with personal certificates of completion, recognizing their dedication to the professional development program. African officials expressed gratitude to the organizers and shared their optimism about continuing and deepening cooperation.

“We strived to provide high quality education, so that you took away with you the best knowledge we could offer. It is important that this is only the beginning of our cooperation, you are united not only by the educational program, we are in touch all the time and we can design the future together,” emphasized Nikita Anisimov, Rector of the HSE University. He also revealed plans to organize programs of academic cooperation, exchange of teachers and students with leading African universities.

Alexandr Polyakov, Deputy Head of the Africa Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Uganda and South Sudan, expressed his delight at the successful implementation of the program. He commended the support provided by Innopraktika, the Ministry of Digital Development and the Ministry of Finance.

In his opinion, African representatives came not only to study. “It is especially heartening that this was a bilateral process, that our African friends, high caliber professionals, came here not only or not so much to study. Of course, the Russian side had a lot to share in the area of innovative digital solutions, but the African colleagues also brought their unique and often pioneering experience in solving problems in their specific national conditions. And I think that the Russian side was enriched from this communication no less,” said Mr. Polyakov. He expressed readiness to support the extension of such programs.

The initiative emphasized the commitment of both African and Russian digitalization leaders to cooperation for the benefit of the African continent through harnessing the power of e-governance.

Mr. Babirukamu Collin MugashaDirector for E-Government Services at the National Information Technology Authority of Uganda, commended the organizers and expressed hope for future events:

“First of all, I want to say that it was a wonderful experience because it was number one, my first time in Russia. Also, the level of delegates that they brought was very good because it was knowledge-sharing. So it lived up to their agenda of knowledge-sharing. We had a chance to network with our fellow colleagues from different countries. The content was also really good. The level of research that Andrew and the team put in… Of course, the biggest highlight was the book, and I was looking forward to reading the book also. But also the networking with the companies, the Russian companies that have put quite some work and learning from Russian experience was really good. So overall I’m very happy that I made it here. I’m looking forward to possibly another visit for the big one time”.

Hayatudeen Bello, Special Adviser to the Head of the Virtual Assets and Cyber Intelligence Department of the Financial Intelligence Agency of Nigeria, also appreciated the experience:

“The event is an eye-opener. These are the prospects that Russia has to offer, and Africa is getting, especially Nigeria, to a point where we need to look inward and develop our own local technologies with the support of partners like Russia. This is a good eye-opener for us.”

Mwasaga Nkundwe Moses, Director General of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Commission of Tanzania, shared his impressions:

“My impression is that it is really good, the presentations were very relevant, the organisation is good, the way I came and the way I am leaving now is best. I have found a lot of opportunities here, between my country and Russia, especially in ICT, and I am looking forward to partnership with your companies and government.”

The Winter E-Governance Knowledge Sharing Week was organized by HSE University in collaboration with the non-state development institute Innopraktika and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the E-Governance Knowledge Sharing Program. Event was coordinated by the HSE Center for African Studies. Expert support was provided by the HSE Institute for Public Administration and Governance (IPAG). The Program is supported by the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation, the Government of Russia, the Ministry of Digital Development, the Ministry of Finance, and other Russian government agencies.