Speech: Sharing Digital Technology Dividends & Bridging the Digital Divide

 In speech

The China-Africa Internet Development And Cooperation Forum

Speech by a senior African diplomat in China at the China-Africa Internet Development And Cooperation Forum in Beijing (August 2021). Recommendations by the Development Reimagined team for the FOCAC 2021 action plan are provided below.


Internet is today- what maritime was in the past centuries- in connecting countries, peoples, goods, and services. Today Internet is a force for good, an enabler of trade, creator of jobs; And facilitator of development. Internet is an important thread that weaves the World together.  It has become an essential need for our lives and prosperity.

In the wake of COVID 19, with lockdowns and travel restrictions, internet connectivity has proven to be more resilient compared to air and maritime connectivity. No other time than this, we have come to appreciate the need to ensure access to the Internet for all.  And no other time than now- it has been revealed how far we are- to meet the SDG target of ensuring access to the Internet for all by 2030.

So many people have been left behind. There is a potential of leaving half the humanity far behind by 2030 if China and Africa, with a combined population of 2.6 Billion people, won’t take extra efforts. Such a situation will lead to a digital divide.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It goes without saying that if we are to prosper together as one World, one humanity with shared prosperity, we ought to ensure that everywhere, every time and everyone can access the Internet and enjoys the dividends that come with it. To achieve this lofty goal, we need to work for digital justice.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Africa is trying to catch up with the global race to achieve the SDG target of the Internet for all.  According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), internet penetration in Africa has grown tenfold since the early 2000s. Not only that, but the continent is now home to over 600 tech hubs and counting.  And Africa was home to nearly half of the World’s mobile money in 2018, and my country, Tanzania, is one of the most developed mobile markets in the World. And Mobile technology is projected to see fast growth in Africa through the year 2025.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Despite the progress, Africa still has a long way to go. Nearly 300 million Africans live more than 50 kilometers from a fiber or cable broadband connection. In this regard, the lack of widespread availability of high-speed Internet remains a significant hurdle for Africa to harness the potential of digital transformation.

However, despite the hurdles that I have pointed out, you will agree that the digital divide in Africa is also an opportunity. It is an area with massive potential for investment with promising returns. It is evident with some success stories so far in this area. For example, when the COVID19 pandemic emerged last year, we saw many youth-driven start-ups with a digital footprint dramatically scaling up the delivery of online services and expanding their businesses across Africa.

According to Disrupt Africa, as of  August this year, over 300 African tech start-ups had raised more than US$ 1 billion compared to about US$ 700 million that was raised in the year 2020.

Further, a report by IBM indicated that there would be more investment in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain, and cloud in Africa as part of recovery strategy from the Covid-19 pandemic in the coming years. Such remarkable achievement is clear evidence of Existing Huge Potential amidst the current Digital Divide.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The story of digital transformation will not be complete without mentioning the role of China. It all started with Huawei – China’s largest telecommunications provider – entering Africa in the year 1998. Since then, we have witnessed a remarkable expansion of Huawei investment and activities across Africa. In Tanzania, for example, Huawei is on the frontline in building a digital workforce, serving more than 35 percent of Tanzania’s population since it was established in the year 2007.  Through their work in Tanzania, HUAWEI has created more than 1000 direct and indirect jobs and provided training to more than 2000 ICT engineers. Today, Huawei equipment constitutes 70 percent of the 4G infrastructure in Africa, and it was the first in the continent to offer 5G services.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is worth mentioning that China’s digital arm of its economic pursuits in Africa falls under the Digital Silk Road initiative, where Chinese companies have secured a significant share of the market in almost every segment of Africa’s digital economy. For example, in the mobile phones market, China’s Transsion Group holds 40 percent of the smartphone market and 64 percent of the feature phone market. Transsion has also partnered with NetEase and Tencent to launch applications in music streaming, social media, fintech, and e-commerce.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

While appreciating the role and impact of Chinese companies in Africa’s digital transformation, I must take this opportunity to challenge Chinese companies to do more.

I say so, knowing the potential that exists in Africa to absorb these investments and the mighty capacity of China to harness and seize them.   Comparing the two, I can say both sides have not done enough. We have not lived up to the expectations. It is an opportunity to reflect. And a chance to act!

This China-Africa Internet Development and Cooperation Forum is, therefore, a step in the right direction. It presents us with an opportunity to chat out the way forward.  Due to the Internet’s importance and digital transformation agenda, we cannot afford to take this matter as a footnote in China-Africa cooperation.  It has to find a place on the table.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

The fact that this Forum is taking place three months before the FOCAC Ministerial Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, gives me a lot of optimism. I sincerely hope that the outcome of this Forum will provide valuable input to the Dakar Ministerial meeting. Ultimately, we wish to see China-Africa Digital Cooperation Initiative included in the next FOCAC Plan of Action for 2022-2024. I guess this is not too much to ask. It is possible; it is achievable! I thank you all for listening.



  • First, at the country level, digitalisation must become a top development priority for African governments, with necessary policy reforms and budgetary allocations to accelerate digitalisation and deliver on shared prosperity. We’ve seen that African governments are working on this- to create a regulatory and policy environment that allows innovation and technologies to flourish, alongside welcoming investment. This includes innovation-friendly regulations for issues such as intellectual property, and regulation that supports data protection but does not strangle the free flow of data across borders.
  • Second, we have seen how China has managed to leverage its market size and potential to influence how foreign investors behave in China and how they enter the market. This is an important lesson for Africa. At the regulatory level, African countries will continue to collaborate and use their collective market potential to attract foreign businesses and investors. We hope Chinese investors will continue to invest in this area.
  • Third, as a continent Africa must build more soft and hard infrastructure for a well-positioned African digital economy, through expanded access to digital technologies, wider internet adoption, improved public expenditure on information communications technology infrastructure, and a more conducive regulatory environment for private sector investments in the sector. This is no small task and DR hope China continue to support this endeavour.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exposure weakness in Africa’s digital systems but it also offers an opportunity to accelerate change. Africa, as a dynamic and growing continent has much to learn from China but as a continent Africa also provide substantial opportunities for engagement, particular in digital development.


Want to find out more about Development Reimagined’s projects on FOCAC 2021– click here

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Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.


    Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.


Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.


China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.


Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.


Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.


Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.


Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.


Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.


Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.



Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.



Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.


Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.


Project Manager

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.


Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.


Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com respectively.


Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.


Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.


Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst 

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion


Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.