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New deal to grant Kenya access to €800B EU data market

Information, Communication and Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo, Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait, Chief Justice Martha Koome, and ICT and Digital Economy PS Eng. John Tanui during NADPA-RAPDP Conference and AGM in Nairobi.

Kenya has commenced negotiations with the European Union that will see the two parties engage in cross border data flow without restrictions.

The adequacy dialogue if concluded will see public and private companies in both jurisdictions engage in business and transactions through exchange of data provided they meet adequate level of data protection as Kenya eyes a piece of EU’s Ksh 114.4 trillion (€800b) data market.

“It is not along European Union level of access. It is enabling businesses to be able to transact freely ensuring that for us as a country we have certain advantages. We have green energy, talent and we will want to make it easy for anyone in EU to give Kenyan a job even the data they will know if this entity subscribe to the data protection guidelines they can also trust and be treated like any company or individual within EU,” said John Tanui, ICT and Digital Economy Principal Secretary.

Under EU’s adequacy decisions, personal data are allowed to flow from EU to other countries without additional safeguard provided they meet the adequate data protection standards.

Currently, countries included in EU adequacy decisions include Andorra, Argentina, Canada, Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Switzerland , the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay.

“It’s not just one way. We will also be giving adequacy to EU. We are in the process of assessing whether the there would be any need. But so far from what we understand, our framework remains robust in terms of attracting investment and being one of, perhaps the best in terms of data protection,” said Immaculate Kassait, Data Commissioner.

The adequacy dialogue which is the first between an African country and the EU puts Kenya in the frontline in accessing EU’s data market on the back of the recently ratified European Partnership Agreements where the country’s exports have access to the block’s market at favourable terms.

“An adequacy decision comes with significant benefits. It will boost digital trade between Kenya and EU, give Kenya access to Europe’s data economy which at this point is worth about €800 billion. It will also increase accessibility of data in a wide range of areas including research and unlock investment opportunities in business process outsourcing and digital service export,” said EU Deputy Ambassador to Kenya Ondrej Simek.

The talks come as Kenya and Africa hold discussions on facilitating cross border data flow which is expected to support the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Speaking during the opening of the Network of African Data Protection Authorities Conference and Annual General Meeting in Nairobi, Information, Communication and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo called on the continent to ensure there are property structures that will strengthen data governance to ensure protection, privacy and security amid emerging cyber threats.

“We are not going to stop digitizing records and digitalizing services because of cyber insecurity but we need to come up with a very robust risk mitigation framework within the digital space to ensure that as we embark on digitalization, we are not exposing ourselves to loopholes or pilferages in data. We need to strengthen our data privacy and also data security,” he urged delegates attending the conference.

The two day conference targets to promote collaboration between Africa and other countries in ensuring protection of personal data in a bid to promote trade.

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