What were the main digital policy regional updates in Africa? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.
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Curated by Grace Mutung'u
Safaricom CEO passes away
1 Jul 2019 | Telecommunications infrastructure
Long serving Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Safaricom, Bob Collymore, passed away on 1 July 2019. Collymore had been at the helm of East and Central Africa's biggest telco services provider since 2010. Safaricom, which also operates the mobile money service M-Pesa, recently reported a 14.7% rise in net profits for the year – to Ksh 63.4 billion.
The company’s board has since appointed former CEO Michael Joseph as interim CEO until a replacement is found. The government of Kenya, which owns a stake in the company, has previously expressed a desire for a Kenyan national to fill the vacancy. The Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has since committed not to interfere with the recruitment process.
AU calls for cyber monitoring to combat terrorism
11 Jul 2019 | Violent extremism
During a regional high-level conference on counter-terrorism and the prevention of violent extremism in Nairobi, the African Union (AU) called for more efforts to combat cyberterrorism.
The Deputy Director of African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism Idriss Mounir Lallali raised some concerns about the use of social media platforms to recruit followers and co-ordinate criminal activities. The AU passed the Convention on Cybercrime and Personal Data Protection (Malabo Convention) in 2014, however, only two countries have since domesticated the law.
A new digital rights bill underwent its first reading at Nigeria’s House of Representatives on 16 July 2019. The reading comes following consultations with stakeholders after President Buhari declined to assent to a similar bill earlier in the year.
The Paradigm Initiative, one of the civil society organisations that had advocated for the first bill, stated that they had held consultations to ensure that the president’s reservations were addressed in the current bill. In a letter to the Senate, President Buhari had explained that the bill covered too many technical subjects that had not been extensively addressed.
The digital rights bill seeks to promote human rights on the Internet and to protect Nigerian Internet users from infringement of their rights online. If passed, it would be the first of its kind on the African continent.
Cameroon has passed a law requiring mobile network operators to charge USD$ 0.35 for every app downloaded from their networks, as import duty. Cameroon joins other African countries that are taxing over-the-top (OTT) and related communication services that use telecommunications infrastructure. Uganda charges daily social media tax, while Kenya has a general Internet and telephone services tax.
The Ministry of Information and Communications in Kenya has launched an artificial intelligence and blockchain report, ‘Emerging technologies for Kenya: Exploration and analysis’. The report was developed by a task force appointed last year to study the transformative technologies which will drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution in relation to Kenya.
The report focuses on the potential application of the technologies to the current government’s plan, the ‘Big Four Agenda’, on food and nutrition security, affordable housing, enhancing manufacturing, and universal health coverage. It envisions the use of the technologies to eliminate corruption, facilitate financial inclusion, improve public service delivery with blockchain, and reduce transaction costs.
Mauritanian blogger freed after six years
30 Jul 2019 | Other human rights
Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed Mkhaitir, a Mauritanian national arrested in January 2014 for a Facebook post has been released. This comes following years of campaigns by advocacy groups for his release.
Mohamed received a death sentence in 2014 after being charged with apostasy. Upon his appeal, his death sentence was commuted to two years in November 2017. However, he was not released in 2017 as he should have been, nor was he given access to his family or legal counsel, as there were many groups calling for his execution.
The Nairobi High Court has declared that section 84D of Kenya Information and Communication Act (KICA) – a legal provision that criminalised the sharing of vulgar information – is unconstitutional.
The decision comes following a petition by a blogger who was facing prosecution for tweeting about Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, calling her, among other things, a commercial sex worker.
Had the blogger been found guilty, he would have had to pay a fine of up to Ksh 200 000, serve up to two years in prison, or both.
The Kenyan High Court has in the recent past declared several criminal laws made prior to the 2010 Constitution null. These include criminal defamation, disrespecting the authority of a public officer, and misuse of a licensed communications system.