On the occasion of the 15th edition of the European Development Days in Brussels, Escipión Joaquín Oliveira Gómez, Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Department of Structural Economic Transformation and Trade of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, discusses the challenges of digitalization for ACP countries. The OACPS contributes to implementing DIRECCT programme together with AFD and Enabel to foster the countries’ resilience to COVID in health, education and economic development. 

Today we are at the European Development Days. What are you expectations for this event?

What I notice is the desire of people to meet with each other. For two years, we have worked on our development projects through digital means, but today, we are all aware of the importance of human contact. Being able to talk face to face with partners we haven’t seen in years is very important. We have found that while digital tools are great for establishing and maintaining the link between regions at low cost, human contact remains important in development relationships.

Why did the OEACP want to set up the DIRECCT program? 

OEACP was created, among others, to promote the integration of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries into the global market with a view to contribute to the eradication of poverty. Therefore, we are very honored to collaborate with Enabel, the French Development Agency AFD and the European Union on D4D Hub, to ensure that our countries’ businesses, educational and medical sectors can rely on digital technology to develop.

With DIRECCT, we have created a very ambitious programme to support our countries recover from the Covid19 pandemic by supporting the digitization of health sector, education sector and Small and Medium Enterprises in our countries.  That is why we are very proud to be associated with this initiative.

Let us talk about digitalization. How should countries in the South handle their digital development?

We do not necessarily have to follow the same steps of digitalization as European countries and the United States. They developed and adopted technologies one after the other. I think we should rather adapt our digitalization to our specific needs. In many of our countries, the cost of Internet is quite high and represents a real obstacle to our competitiveness. So we have to find solutions (file compression systems…) in order to pay less to communicate. The cooperation with Europe is very important in this field and to find ways to adapt. I think this type of technology will also be interesting in places in Europe where there is less access to Internet, maybe in some European territories in the Pacific or the Caribbean and also in national parks where often you don’t have an antenna. To be competitive, we really need to work, perhaps through a public-private partnership, to invest more in telecommunications to achieve a critical mass to reduce costs.