Open forum: African Union

7 Dec 2016 18:00h - 19:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

The session begun with Ms Palesa Legoze (Chair), Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, South Africa, stating how the session was a result of feedback from the 2016 African IGF (AfIGF) held in South Africa. It was remarkable how the AfIGF-16 was well attended by high-level government officials and experts, meeting to discuss topical issues, which interest Africans, and how to take Internet innovation forward.

Mr Adil Ismail Suleiman, Senior Policy Officer, AU Commission, talked about some achievements and challenges the AfIGF has encountered. He highlighted the AU Declaration draft on Net Governance during the previous IGF. The draft declaration was put online so that ministers of ICTs under the AU could comment and contribute, and subsequently consider it for adoption by the head of states. The challenge, however, was the lack of political will by governments accepting the ICTs as an enabler for Africa to leap frog into the twenty-first century and achieve the SDGs. He therefore called for the active inclusion of policymakers in ICT discussions, to enable them build trust and confidence in the use of ICTs.

Dr Mawaki Chango, Digital Access Consultant, Togo, gave feedback on the African School of IG (AFRISIG) which is one of the region-focused capacity building programmes on IG, convened by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) along with the agency on behalf of the AU. He acknowledged that the fourth edition of the school held this year was very good since it was fairly balanced between a mixture of government officials, civil society, lawyers, students (including PhD candidates), and staff from international co-operation agencies. The selected candidates are grouped into topical issues and assigned roles, and this year’s issue was Internet Shutdown. The interesting and practical outcomes of the school were carried over to the AfIGF-16, where the AFRISIG and AfIGF were organized jointly. The class participated during the AfIGF-16 proceedings including organizing and hosting content as well as volunteering to be rapporteurs.

Mr Chagu Lugali, MAG member and co-founder of the Nigerian IGF, raised some concerns including the AU’s participation in the IGF, as well as engaging in international programmes and the African community all the time but as yet yielding no significant results. In addressing the question of the way forward for the AU in the IGF, the following were pointed out:

  1. The current approach to Internet governance in Africa is extremely one-sided; it is not yet a multistakeholder approach.
  2. The aim should be towards expanding the frontier of Internet governance in Africa, and what walls can be built around it.
  3. Three key products can be factored into the AfIGF:
  1. The African constitution on cybersecurity.
  2. Africa to embrace its own policy documents rather than concentrating more on international documents.
  3. Africa providing incentives and funding its own projects; this is achievable if we involve and co-operate or partner with the business community.

Ms Mandiaye Ndiaye, a senior librarian in Senegal and a member of the International Association of Librarians, talked about the recommendations of the AfIGF-16 in Durban and also the key issues of inclusiveness and trust in Africa. She said the recommendations reached for each session were to assist the role of Internet governance in the SDGs. Some of the recommendations made by the stakeholders include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Governments need to partner with libraries to deliver on national development plans.
  2. Governments must embrace Internet governance as a social governance tool for community transformation
  3. To bridge the digital divide in Africa, governments must support (1) private sector needs to develop core digital content, and (2) civil society to launch campaigns and design programmes to sensitise women on how to use the Internet as well as women’s rights.
  4. African member states should sign and ratify the EU convention on cybersecurity and personal data protection.

Ms Meru Duma, coordinator of the Nigerian IGF and the AfIGF, spoke of building on the outcomes of Durban and paving the way for digital transformation in Africa.

Other matters regarding the way forward to achieving the Durban recommendations were discussed, as well as suggestions from the panel and participants and the following conclusions were made as the meeting wrapped up:

  1. Africa governments should invest in research to find solutions to African problems in order to make progress in achieving the SDGs.
  2. African involvement in the MAG membership should be leveraged to push the African agenda.
  3. Regional outputs to the African IGF process need to be reviewed.

by Ivy Hoetu, Internet Society Ghana