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ECOWAS Exploring Certified Electronic Signature With EU

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ABUJA, Nigeria, April 18, 2024/ — The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with the support of the European Union through the Digital for Development (D4D) Hub, is exploring with its Member States best practices and experiences in certified electronic signatures. The aim is to define a roadmap towards a common and concerted approach to the digital economy and society, including e-commerce and e-government.

For two days, during an online workshop organised from 26 to 27 March 2024 by ECOWAS with technical support from the European Union, through the Digital for Development (D4D) Hub, experts from ECOWAS Member States shared their knowledge and experience, Drawing on the Malabo Convention and the ECOWAS additional act on electronic transactions, they discussed the Community’s priorities to be considered in the development of a regional electronic signature certification policy and the technical approach required.

In his opening address on behalf of the Commissioner in charge of Infrastructure, Energy and Digitalisation, Sediko DOUKA, the Principal Programme Manager for Internet, Cyber Security & E-applications, Mrs. Folake OLAGUNJU, reiterated the ECOWAS Commission’s commitment to coordinating the region’s digital transformation. This is reflected in programmes addressing, among other things, e-government and e-commerce, which are recognised as crucial foundations for a digital economy and society, and justify the growing adoption of online services worldwide.

In her view, in order to guarantee the confidence of citizens and businesses and ensure their full participation in the digital world, particularly in e-commerce and e-government, it is essential to overcome the associated challenges, particularly those relating to digital identity and the certified electronic signature, which are essential prerequisites for most legally binding interactions between users of online services.

The next speaker, Ms Céline LHOSTE, Team Leader for Regional Cooperation at the European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, recalled at the opening session of the workshop that the support provided to the ECOWAS Commission is part of the Global Gateway Strategy and the commitment made in February 2022 at the EU-African Union Summit to support the continent in favour of a green and inclusive transition, providing growth and decent jobs, in particular through the implementation of a EUR 150 billion investment package in transport, energy and digital infrastructures. The support provided to ECOWAS for the organisation of this workshop is a first step towards establishing collaboration aimed at creating a harmonised and secure regional digital environment, conducive to e-governance and e-commerce, and beyond that to the establishment of a single digital market contributing to the deepening of regional economic integration.

During this workshop, which testifies to the alignment and deep commitment of the ECOWAS and EU institutions to digital transformation, the participants shared the progress update and prospects regarding the certification of electronic signatures at national level, in particular the regulatory aspect and the technical approach. The difficulties encountered in implementing the measures on electronic transactions in the Malabo Convention and the ECOWAS Additional Act were discussed, as well as the new challenges linked to the introduction of new disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Finally, the guidelines necessary for the development and adoption of the certified electronic signature were formulated to ensure confidence in e-commerce and e-government.

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