One of the most successful and active Regional bodies in Africa is the East African Economic Community. It is now involved in the East Africa Single Digital Market (SDM) initiative, which aims to support the region to become a more deeply integrated and dynamic digital investment, innovation, and growth hub, building on the underlying strengths of the domestic digital economies and the ongoing political and economic integration processes in East Africa as well as at the Continental level.
The concept recognises that most countries in the region are too small to succeed in the digital economy in isolation. They need the economies of scale and network effects offered by a larger regional market to help bridge the digital divide faster within their respective countries and the region in relation to the global digital economy. An single digital market could accelerate the growth of technology-enabled businesses, lower the cost of key telecom services, and catalyze new digital services for citizens and businesses alike. If the initiative succeeds the East African digital market would be the 9th largest in the world, based on population, creating the ‘domestic’ market size able to attract digital investment, and provide a larger space for local firms to grow before having to compete in global markets. It will provide the region with the force to compete against digital giants on the continent such as South Africa or Nigeria, and ultimately to contend with the globally dominant digital hubs, which benefit from large domestic markets. The research has now been published, and is available on the World Bank’s website.