Nigeria joins Middle East’s Digital Cooperation Organization

Nigeria joins Middle East’s Digital Cooperation Organization at first meeting

15 April 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Nigeria and Oman have joined the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) at its first meeting in Riyadh this week, joining Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The virtual meeting elected Deema Alyahya (pictured) as the first secretary-general of the DCO.

A computer scientist, she is a digital economy adviser in Saudi Arabia, and eight years ago founded Women Spark, the first women-led angel investment group in the country, with the aim of educating and training women to angel investors and entrepreneurs.

The seven initial member states of the DCO have gross domestic product between them of US$2 trillion. The population of the seven nations is close to 480 million, 80% of whom are under 35 years old.

Nigeria is the only African member of the DCO, with the others coming from the Arab world, but there appears to be nothing to prevent membership from other parts of the world.

The first meeting was chaired by Abdullah Al-Swaha, Saudi Arabia’s minister of communications and information technology.

The member states said their priorities for the DCO include establishing a centre to highlight the importance of cooperation in relation to flow of data across borders; empowerment of women in the digital labour market; entrepreneurship; and aiding small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to grow and achieve a digital future.

Others taking part in the inaugural meeting included Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Nayef Al-Hajraf, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Børge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum.

The DCO, which was officially set up in November 2020, said: “We will ensure that our activities are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of which they are a part.”

The next full council meeting will take place in 2022, “at which we will discuss the progress in implementing our initiatives and review their early impact on the achievement of our objectives”.