Regional updates: Africa

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.

March 2019

Curated by 

Jacob Odame-Baiden

Uganda adopts new data protection and privacy act

1 Mar 2019 | 

Privacy and data protection

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has signed the new Data Protection and Privacy Act. According to a statement released by the National Information Authority of Uganda (NITA-U), the act is described as, ‘The law, which expands the mandate of the National Information Authority Uganda (NITA-U), will protect the privacy of the individual and of personal data by regulating the collection and processing of personal information.’

Rwanda launches first-ever satellite to connect remote schools to the Internet

4 Mar 2019 | 

Access, Telecommunications infrastructure

Rwanda’s plan to ensure that schools in remote areas get access to reliable Internet to promote effective teaching and learning has been given a boost by the launch of a satellite for that purpose, through a collaboration with the UK based company, OneWeb. With this programme, schools in very remote and sparse locations that cannot be connected through traditional fibre connections can have access to the Internet via the satellite.

Research: Internet access is top priority for most smartphone users in Kenya

4 Mar 2019 | 


A new study conducted by Consumer Insight, dubbed the Digitalk Report, has shown that the prime usage by Kenyans of smartphones is to access the Internet. Key portions of the report, published by a Kenyan new portal showed that more than 90% of Kenyans with access to smartphones are almost always connected to the Internet.

It also showed that 96% of Kenyans connected to the Internet via smartphones used it for socialising, shopping, banking, consuming news, gambling, dating, and finding education and career opportunities, among other activities.

Microsoft opens first data centres in Africa with general availability of Microsoft Azure

6 Mar 2019 | 

Cloud computing, Access

Microsoft has announced the opening of its first datacenters at two locations in Africa: Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. These new data centres will make Microsoft Azure cloud services available to benefit organisations with increased computing sources and connectivity.

The new cloud regions in South Africa will ensure that Africa is fully connected to Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure which will increase business opportunities, help accelerate new global investment, and improve access to cloud and Internet services across Africa.

‘Internet censorship bill’ set to be signed into law in South Africa

21 Mar 2019 | 

Privacy and data protection

South Africa’s national assembly has officially passed the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, according to a news report. The final stage for the bill to become law is for the South African President to give his assent to it.

The bill mainly introduces harsher rules to protect children from disturbing and harmful content online, such as revenge porn and hate speech. The bill also imposes severe fines on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who have full knowledge of harmful content being distributed through their services.

Swahili content explodes Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda mobile growth

22 Mar 2019 | 

Multilingualism, Access

According to the Mobile Economy Report 2019, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have seen a significant growth in mobile content in Swahili. The number of mobile apps in the language increased from around 5 000 in 2014 to almost 30 000 by 2017. This means that more people are able to access useful services on their mobile phones because they are in a language they can read and understand.                                       

Kenya alone saw a 16% growth in mobile Internet adoption from 2014 to 2017 with over 4 million new users. According to the report, apart from the Swahili content factor, the growth was also supported by good performance in two enablers: infrastructure and affordability.

Microsoft opens policy and innovation centre in South Africa

22 Mar 2019 | 

Access, Digital divide, Capacity development, Development - other

Microsoft has opened its second Policy Innovation Centre (PICs) in Africa at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. PICs which are based and managed by partner academic institutions are designed to bring together various stakeholders from government, academia, industry, and civil society to share best practices and experiences to encourage innovative policy dialogues and recommendations that can help better shape society. The first PIC in Africa is stationed at the Strathmore University in Kenya. Microsoft has shown its commitment to lead the efforts of championing the technology revolution in Africa by recently opening two data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

February 2019

Curated by 

Foncham Denis Doh

Uniconta lands on African shores

1 Feb 2019 | 

Access, Cloud computing, Cybersecurity

Uniconta, a new cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, developed to help companies work efficiently, quickly, and reach their targets easier, by providing fast access, security and customised solutions has opened its first office in Cape Town – south Africa.

Keith Mullan, CEO Uniconta South Africa, said that the service is unique because it is solely cloud based with no legacy and available on a monthly subscription basis.

Uniconta will expand from southern Africa to other countries such as Kenya and Uganda, to enable companies use their latest technology to increase their opportunities and competitive advantage.

Facebook partners with African NGOs for Safer Internet Day Celebration

5 Feb 2019 | 

Cybersecurity, Child safety online, Capacity development, Consumer protection

On  5 February  2019, Facebook supported  more than 20 non-profit  organisations and government agencies in Africa, as they worked to sensitise people about Internet safety and security, on the occasion of Safer Internet Day 2019 (SID2019).

Facebook supported SID2019 by sponsoring the printing of online safety awareness booklets, facilitating training sessions, and raising awareness in their ‘Facebook Safety Center’.

Sherry Dzinoreva, Head of Africa Policy Programmes at Facebook, said they are happy to contribute in making the Internet better. The campaign covered most of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Rwanda to bridge digital divide with first smartphone factory

8 Feb 2019 | 

Access, Digital divide, Capacity development, Economic - other issues

Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation in Rwanda, made an announcement to the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth that the country is negotiating with the Mara Group, a Pan-African multisector business service company, to operate a smart phone factory by April this year.

She added that the smart phones will be affordable, and that a partnership with telecommunications companies will reduce access costs. Her aim is that the whole population will be trained in digital literacy and that every home will have a smart device.

Ethiopia’s privatisation programme attracts African telecom operators

12 Feb 2019 | 

Economic - other issues

Following the selection of Ethio Telecom as the first of four state corporations to be privatised, Pan African Telecommunications (MTN), Orange, and Vodacom are among its potential buyers.

Haji Ebsa, Director of the Ministry of Finance Communications, said that partial privatisation will be preferred as the best approach for the process, with a majority of the stakes owned by the state and shares sold to investors.

The privatisation is part of reforms headed by Prime Minister Abby Ahmed, to liberalise the economy and privatise state corporations, in order to stimulate economic growth through foreign investment.

Societe Generale (SG), a European bank operating worldwide, partners with HPS to improve its payment processing activities in 10 African branches. In the beginning, the HPS platform will be used for payment operations involving card issuing, point of sal

12 Feb 2019 | 

E-Money and virtual currencies, E-commerce, Economic - other issues

Societe Generale (SG), a European bank operating worldwide, partners with HPS  to improve its payment processing activities in 10 African branches. In the beginning, the HPS platform will be used for payment operations involving card issuing, point of sale (PoS) and automated teller machines (ATM).

Nicolas Revol, Head of payment solutions for International Retail Banking at SG, indicated that matching the digital payments revolution is a big challenge, especially in Africa.

Samir Khallouqui, Managing Director of HPS processing, said that they were glad to help SG with improving payment processing for their customers.

Huawei to launch data centre in South Africa in March

15 Feb 2019 | 

Telecommunications infrastructure, Digital divide, Access, Economic - other issues

The Avanti Communications Group, a satellite data communications service provider, and MainOne, a connectivity and data centre solution company in West Africa, have partnered to increase broadband penetration in Nigeria.

According to the agreement, MainOne will leverage Avanti’s satellite, HYLAS 4, to take broadband services to areas unreachable by fiber. Avanti’s Eco Initiative grouping broadband access, solar power, and Wi-Fi services for schools and small communities is included.

Libby Barr, Chief Operating Officer at Avanti, said that he was glad that their product will complement MainOne’s fiber networks, andb, CEO of MainOne, said that the partnership will help to bridge the digital gap.

Tanzanian farmers secure land and food using drone technology

16 Feb 2019 | 

Economic - other issues

Due to the difficulties faced by farmers in Tanzania to obtain credit with no bankable assets or collateral, Rose Funja, ICT entrepreneur, has developed AgrInfo  which identifies farmers, the size and location of their farms and the crops they cultivate, and the information is then sent to financial institutions, where they are used to evaluate credit worthiness.

Funja said that over 300 farmers in the Tanzanian capital have access to financial institution using AgrInfo, and there are plans to reach 1 million subscribers.

Smart Africa gets new Director General at the 32nd African Union Summit

11 Feb 2019 | 

Capacity development, Access, Development - other

On 11 February 2019 during the 32nd African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Lacina Kone from the Ivory Coast replaced Hamadoun Toure from Mali as the new Director General of the Smart Africa Alliance Secretariat.    

Smart Africa is an agreement by African leaders and governments to advance socio-economic development on the continent by using affordable broadband access and ICTs. The alliance, which started in 2013 with 7 members, now has 24 members with 30 private companies. The ONE African Network (OAN), which aims to phase out roaming and reduce Internet costs, and the Smart African Scholarship, to support African ICT scholars, are initiatives of the Alliance.

January 2019

Curated by 

Grace Mutung'u

Kenyans protest against New York Times photo

16 Jan 2019 | 

Other human rights, Copyright, , Freedom of expression

Kenyans protested against a photo showing dead bodies that was published on the New York Times website following a terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Dusit complex earlier this month. Several Kenyans complained about the photo which was prominently published on the newspaper's website and Twitter account. This led to an explanation by the paper about its editorial policies as well as a suspension of their photo account by Twitter. However, the picture was maintained and subsequently, a complaint was lodged with the media regulator, Media Council of Kenya.

Zimbabwe High Court Orders restoration of the Internet

21 Jan 2019 | 

Other human rights, , Freedom of expression

On 21 January, the High Court of Zimbabwe ordered the government to restore full Internet in the country. The government had ordered blacking out of social media services following countrywide protests over a hike in fuel prices. Local NGO Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) who sued the government together with Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the court had ruled that the Minister of State for National Security did not have authority to issue directives under the country’s Interception of Communications Act. During the reign of former President Robert Mugabe who was ousted in November 2017, Zimbabwe had periodically shut down the Internet when there were political protests.

Uganda to develop regulations on artistic content

22 Jan 2019 | 

Freedom of expression, Other human rights

The government of Uganda is preparing regulations for vetting songs prior to their public release. Uganda’s Minister for Gender, Labour, and Social Development Peace Mutuuzo told Reuters that the new regulations had received cabinet approval and were expected to be passed by March. The regulations are viewed by critics as a response to the growing popularity of the musician-cum-opposition politician Bobi Wine who has a large following among urban youth. Under the regulations, lewd and offensive content is outlawed and artists will have to seek permission prior to performing outside the country. This has created debate on how sharing and curation of online content will be regulated. Uganda’s proposed rules are similar to Tanzania where BASATA, the country’s arts regulatory board enforces online and offline performance controls.

Chad: Activists mark 300 days of Internet shutdown

22 Jan 2019 | 

Other human rights, Freedom of expression

Digital rights groups such as the Paradigm Initiative and Internet Sans Frontières (ISF) marked 300 days of a social media blackout in Chad on 22 January. The disruption has been in force following protests after a national constitutional conference resolved that 66 year old President Idris Déby would rule the country until 2033. The rights groups wrote letters to the president and the African Union urging for restoration of the Internet and upholding of human rights. They also held protests online and in N’Djaména to call attention to Africa’s longest Internet shutdown.

Uganda: Teleco officers deported amid licence renewal application

23 Jan 2019 | 

Telecommunications infrastructure

Uganda has deported three senior officials of mobile network operator MTN in unclear circumstances. Olivier Prentout, French, Annie Bilenge Tabura, Rwandese, and Elza Muzzolini, Italian were all deported in January for what the police termed as 'national security investigations'. Uganda has previously raised concerns about MTN’s foreign ownership. After being in the country for about 20 years, MTN is operating on an interim licence after its licence expired last year. At the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, MTN CEO met with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. The president tweeted that the company should be listed in the Uganda Stock Exchange so that Ugandans could also own it.

Uganda deported three senior officials of mobile network operator MTN in unclear circumstances. Olivier Prentout- a French national, Annie Bilenge Tabura, Rwandese, and, Elza Muzzolini an Italian were deported within the month of January for what the po

23 Jan 2019 | 

An announcement by the government of Cameroon on its plans to set up an innovation hub in Yaoundé is stirring opposition from English speaking areas. The new hub is similar to what has come to be known as Silicon Mountain in the English speaking region of Buea. Recent tensions between the French and English speaking regions resulted in an Internet shutdown in English speaking regions which lasted over 200 days and a near collapse of Silicon Mountain. Innovation hubs have taken root up in many African cities in recent years and are increasingly funded by governments. The government of Cameroon proposes to spend a large poortion of its scientific, research and innovation budget to support young Cameroonian software developers in the new hub.

Kenya: Digital ID project raises questions

28 Jan 2019 | 

Privacy and data protection, ,

Following an enactment of amendment laws to facilitate digital identificiation in Kenya, questions are being raised about the project. Local consumer group Cofek asked in a blog post why the project was being implemented as a restricted tender. They argued that the project procurement should be made open so as to give the public an idea on how their biometric data would be collected and secured. Other groups also raised concerns about data protection in the new system which is expected to collect not only biometric data but also digital DNA as well as GPS data of all Kenyans and residents.

December 2018

Curated by 

Foncham Denis Doh

African-made smartphone to go operational in 2019

7 Dec 2018 | 

Access, Telecommunications infrastructure, Economic - other issues

Africans and others will soon be able to own smartphones made in Africa. This was disclosed at the African Investment Forum in Johannesburg by Ashish Thakkar, founder of the Mara co-operation, while presenting a prototype of the phone to over 1000 financial institutions attending the forum. He regretted that none of the 400 million smartphones used in Africa is produced on the continent, making Africans consumers and not value creators.

Liquid Telecom Partners with Code for Africa (CfA) to map deadly air pollution in Kenya

13 Dec 2018 | 

Internet of Things (IoT), Convergence

Following a warning that air pollution kills more than 20 000 Kenyans each year, a pilot exercise in Nairobi,  with 60 air sensors controlled by the CfA, a nonprofit technology network, confirmed high pollution in the city. As a solution, Liquid Telecom has partnered with CfA to install air quality sensors at 3000 sites in Kenya.

The sensors, which will be mounted on Liquid Telecom’s towers and powered by the company’s Internet of Things (IoT) Low Power Wide Area Network, will provide information on the levels of airborne pollutants every 2.5 minutes.

South Africa to regulate cryptocurrency operations

14 Dec 2018 | 

E-Money and virtual currencies, Economic - other issues

Unlike some other African countries that are against cryptocurrency, South Africa is embrasing the innovation and its authorities are gathering suggestions for cryptocurrency regulation. The outdated National Payment System Act 78 from 1998 will be updated to cover unregulated areas which have emerged with digital financial technology.

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and the National Treasury will receive comments until February 2019, despite arguments presented by SARB that regulation of cryptocurrency may affect growth and innovation of the industry.

UNICEF and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) launch Internet of Good Things (IoGT)

14 Dec 2018 | 

Online education, Internet of Things (IoT), Convergence

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) partnered with Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) to create a social media platform called Internet of Good Things (IoGT) which provides free information on life related issues in Malawi. This tool will work together with the U-report, an opinion pooling system for young people, developed earlier this year.


Andrew Brown, UNICEF Chief of Communications, Advocacy and Partnership said TNM users with a smartphone will have access to information on maternal health, HIV and sexual health, education, hygiene and emergency information.

November 2018

Curated by 

Grace Mutung'u

African group supports regulation of over-the-top services at ITU plenipot

6 Nov 2018 | 

Convergence, Telecommunications infrastructure

The African regional group under the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) proposed a resolution on the regulation of over-the-top services during the recently concluded Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). African countries such as Uganda, Zambia, and Benin have implemented social media taxes to protect local companies from competition posed by Internet telephony and social media services. In line with the resolution, Kenya is exploring the regulation of the services. Other issues where the African group had a common position during the plenipotentiary were cybersecurity, Internet governance, counterfeit devices and the Internet of Things.

Africa IGF MAG announced

9 Nov 2018 | 

Capacity development

The formation of the 2019 African IGF Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (AfIGF-MAG) was announced at the conclusion of the 2018 African IGF in Khartoum, Sudan. The group, which is tasked with developing the programme for next year’s regional meeting, comprises of sub-regional IGF organisers, government representatives and youth. The African IGF is convened by the African Union Commission with the support of partners such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Internet Society (ISOC). Other discussions during the African IGF featured Africa’s position on the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation,  community networks as an alternative to connecting the unconnected, and supporting African Internet governance institutions such as AFRINIC.

Uganda Internet shutdown case adjourned to February 2019

12 Nov 2018 | 

Other human rights, Freedom of expression

A case protesting Internet shutdowns in Uganda during the 2016 elections has been adjourned until 25 February 2019. According to Unwanted Witness, the petitioner, the case failed to kick-off because the judge was indisposed. The shutdowns occurred in February and May 2016 during the presidential election and subsequent swearing in of the president. The disruptions also affected mobile money services, and Unwanted Witness is seeking a declaration that the shutdowns abrogated Ugandans’ rights to access to information, freedom of expression, and participation among other rights.

How are social media taxes implemented?

10 Dec 2018 | 

Economic - other issues, Other human rights, Freedom of expression

Earlier this year, the government of Uganda introduced social media taxes where users are required to pay a daily fee before accessing social media sites. A report by the Open Observatory of Network Interferences (OONI) reveals that these taxes are implemented through various blocking methods. These include HTTP blocking and resetting connections on banned sites as well as TCP/IP blocking of banned sites. The report also notes a variation in the blocking across different Internet service providers (ISPs). In addition, some mobile network operators block the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).

Journalists narrate detention ordeal

13 Nov 2018 | 

Other human rights, , Freedom of expression

Two officers of the Committee to Protect Journalists narrated their experience during their detention by Tanzanian authorities. The pair were arrested by immigration officers and questioned over their activities in the country. They were visiting Tanzania on a fact-finding mission and had interviewed journalists facing charges under new cyber laws. They were later released after the intervention of South African and Kenyan embassies in Tanzania.

First data protection summit in Africa calls for harmonisation of laws

19 Nov 2018 | 

Other human rights, Privacy and data protection, Economic - other issues

Mauritius hosted the inaugural Data Protection Africa Summit from 19-23 November 2018. The topics covered at the summit included the data policy gaps in Africa, the application of artificial intelligence on the continent, as well the implementation of digital IDs on the continent. The issue of data localisation, where some argue for data to remain within countries to support local data economies, was widely discussed. On the other hand, others called for the open flow of data within the continent to support Africa’s single market economy.

Child online protection charter launched in Kenya

21 Nov 2018 | 

Child safety online,

Kenyan mobile network operators (MNOs) - Airtel Kenya, Jamil Telecommunications, Safaricom and Telkom Kenya - have become the first African signatories of the GSMA’s ‘We Care’ child online protection initiative. The MNOs committed to providing a safer online environment for children. They will work with the communications regulator and the ministry of information and communication in educational awareness programmes, integrating children’s rights in their corporate programmes and supporting law enforcement and other stakeholders to tackle child online abuse. The ‘We Care’ initiative was launched in 2014 in Latin America with key focus areas: digital inclusion, child protection, environmental care, disaster response, public safety, and tackling handset theft.



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