Africa’s agency in the competing narratives of external partners in Africa’s digital market A comparison of Japan and China

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University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
According to United Nations reports, Africa’s economic growth potential is among the highest in the world. It is thus unsurprising that many global powers have turned their attention to the continent, often motivated by the opportunity to help Africa ‘leapfrog’ infrastructure challenges through funding the innovative application of information and communication technologies (ICTs). As the global competition for Africa’s economic growth and, more specifically, Africa’s digital sector heats up, understanding Africa’s interests and agency within these negotiations becomes increasingly pertinent. This article explores some of the competing narratives provided by external states that seek a stake in the development of Africa’s profitable digital market. The article employs Lesley Masters’ (2021) digital diplomacy lens defined as ‘a means of navigating the evolving international digital governance regime and negotiating a more even playing field to address the inequalities in the international structure’. The article compares and contrasts the narratives that are framed by two ‘competitors’, namely China and Japan. These two states are expected to become significant players in the development of Africa’s digital market; China has become one of the most important funders in ICT networks in the global South and Japan’s recent pledge of $30 billion in aid to Africa includes the digital technology sector.
African Governance, Digital Age, Digital diplomacy lens, Digital market, Global competition, Digital technology sector