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FactsheetJune 27, 2024

Inclusive Digitalization in Eastern and Southern Africa Program: Malawi

What is the Inclusive Digitalization in Eastern and Southern Africa (IDEA) Program?

The Inclusive Digitalization in Eastern and Southern Africa (IDEA) Program will increase access to the internet and the inclusive use of digitally enabled services.  With $2.48 billion in funding from the International Development Association (IDA) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), IDEA aims to bring together 15 countries and Regional Economic Communities to tackle challenges such as limited internet coverage, inadequate data infrastructure, low usage due to high cost of data and devices, limited digital skills, cybersecurity risks and data protection. IDEA will contribute to sustainable economic growth through long-term cost savings, efficiency, and productivity gains, fueled by greater digital adoption by citizens, businesses, and governments across the region.

IDEA will be implemented in phases over eight years with Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Malawi participating in the first phase. Additional countries and regional bodies are expected to join in the subsequent phases based on their eligibility and readiness. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) will spearhead the regional coordination of the IDEA Program.

What will the program do in Malawi?

The Digital Malawi Acceleration Project (DMAP), under IDEA, aims to increase access to, and inclusive use of, the internet and improve the government's capacity to deliver digitally enabled services. An initial grant of $70 million will be provided by IDA and is expected to be increased later to a total of $150 million, which is predicted to mobilize an additional $50 million in private sector financing. DMAP will be implemented by the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) and the Ministry of Information and Digitalization (MID).

“Digitalization is a powerful tool for development in Malawi. Progress in this sector will transform service delivery in social protection, financial inclusion, disaster response, and lands management. It will also create employment opportunities and help respond quickly and effectively to climate crises and health emergencies.”

Nathan Belete
World Bank Country Director for Malawi

DMAP is structured around three technical areas:

  • Affordable broadband and secure data hosting. This component will focus on activities such as expanding broadband coverage in rural areas; closing connectivity gaps for government institutions; achieving universal school connectivity; addressing gaps in missing cross-border broadband links; and ensuring safe hosting of government data.
  • Interoperable and secure data platforms. This component will focus on activities such as the next generation digital ID and identity verification services, facilitation of data exchange, enabling e-services, and enhancing policy and regulatory frameworks.
  • High impact digital services and productive digital usage. This component will focus on expanding support to tech hubs to provide youth training in digital literacy, digital skills, digital entrepreneurship, and other activities. It will also support digitalization in key sectors including social protection, financial inclusion, disaster recovery, and lands management.

Who will benefit?

Enhanced internet access is expected to reach at least 7.5 million people in Malawi.  The project will benefit all households (especially low-income), climate-vulnerable populations, disadvantaged women and girls (especially in remote areas), digital entrepreneurs, and users of public facilities. The Malawian people will gain from the enhanced access to affordable, high-quality broadband, more affordable devices, enhanced data protection and cybersecurity, and e-services in key sectors and job opportunities created in sectors requiring higher skill levels. The government will benefit from the efficiencies gained from seamless data exchange, more secure data hosting, the ability to provide services digitally and from improved technical capacity of government personnel, including in emerging areas such as cyber-security.

What is the role of COMESA?

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) will spearhead the regional coordination of the IDEA Program. As mandated, COMESA supports the creation of a common market and the enhancement of digital infrastructure, facilitating the transition towards a digital free trade area across most of countries IDEA will cover.

COMESA will support the enabling environment for regional digital market development and integration and create a platform to inform and mobilize investments for regional digital infrastructure. Activities will include, for example, developing regionally harmonized regulatory and policy frameworks, guidelines, and standards to promote digital access and usage; build capacity and support institutional strengthening for participating countries in a sustainable manner; and increase the efficiency and impact of the program activities by leveraging regional synergies between countries.