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.


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.


October 2018

Curated by 

Foncham Denis Doh

Digital platform to access genocide archives launched in Rwanda

10 Oct 2018 | 

Global public goods, Online education, Other human rights

The Kigali Genocide Memorial launched an educational online platform, IWitness, with 55 000 testimonies of genocide survivors in the Institute’s Visual History Archive (VHA).

During the launch, Dr Jean-Damascene Gasanabo (Director General of Research and Documentation Center at the National Commission for the fight against Genocide) said that the platform is a 'useful tool to effectively teach young Rwandans about the past. The country wants to teach the young generation about the Genocide to help them prepare for the future. The documented data has videos of first-hand witnesses as well as subtitles. This will help students understand better the history.'

Facebook to deploy optical fiber in Uganda

12 Oct 2018 | 

Telecommunications infrastructure, Access, Digital divide

Facebook signed an agreement with Airtel Uganda and Bandwidth and Cloud Services Group (BGS), for the installation of 800 km of fiber optic in Uganda. Earlier in August this year, Facebook threatened to suspend investments in the country due to a social media tax that was imposed by government.

This agreement initiated by Mr Kojo Boaky (Facebook African Public Policy Manager) was signed in the presence of government representatives  and the CEOs of Airtel and BGS.

The project will provide Internet access to rural communities and backhaul connectivity for 3 million citizens nable future cross-border connectivity to neighbouring countries.

Google maps motorcycle navigation mode comes to Africa

15 Oct 2018 | 

Development - other, Access, Global public goods

The motorcycle mode feature on Google maps, which eases movement by avoiding restricted roads, proposing efficient routes and shortcuts, and indicating accurate arrival times, has been launched in Kenya and made available to over one million motorcyclists.

Google indicated that it also plans to launch the street view service in the country. which will enable citizens and tourists to explore up to 9 500 km of roads.

Nigeria Internet Exchange Point hits 10.000 % traffic growth in five years.

19 Oct 2018 | 

Telecommunications infrastructure, Access

Mr Muhammed Rudman (CEO of the Internet Exchange Point  of Nigeria (IXPN)) stated that in Lagos statistics from 2013-2018 indicate traffic growth on the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) by 10 000%, with a current value of 110 gigabits. Connections to the IXP of Content Providers such as Facebook, Akamai,China Telecom and Angola cables have contributed to the growth.

Internet operations are now simplified and traffic is localised. Rudman stated that the coming together of local and international players to connect to the IXP is in tandem with Nigeria’s local content quest because about 40% of the Internet traffic being exchanged in the country is presently local occasioned by the Internet Exchange Point.


September 2018

Curated by 

Grace Mutung'u

Deployment of armed US drones in Niger raises concerns

4 Sep 2018 | 

Cyberconflict, Cybersecurity, Other human rights

News that the United States will begin flying armed drones out of a remote base in Niger has raised concerns about human rights violations in the use of combat drones. In periodic reports to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights earlier this year, it was noted that armed American drones had caused death among the civilian population. While acknowledging the resurgence of terrorist groups and organised crime in the region, the Commission called for an impartial independent investigation on the deaths, prosecution of alleged perpetrators of the deaths, and for compensation for the victims of the drone actions and their families.

Kenya introduces telephone and Internet taxes

21 Sep 2018 | 

Taxation, Network neutrality, Access, Freedom of expression, Other human rights

Kenya has introduced a 15% excise tax on Internet services and 20% on mobile money transfers after Parliament passed the Finance Bill 2018. In a memorandum sent to Parliament, President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote ‘Telephone and internet data services shall be charged excise duty at a rate of fifteen percent of their excisable value. Excise duty on fees charged for money transfer services by banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers shall be twenty percent of their excisable value’. Moreover, Parliament has scaled back funding for ICT development projects, including the digital literacy programme and last mile electricity. Experts link new taxes to external debt acquired through loans for infrastructural development from China.

Ethiopia shuts down mobile Internet during protests

21 Sep 2018 | 

Freedom of expression, Access, Other human rights

Ethiopia cut access to mobile Internet for two days in the capital Addis Ababa to contain protests and ethnic clashes which left 23 people dead. A press statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists indicates that mobile Internet was unavailable from 17-19 September. Although access through fixed lines was not affected, the majority of Ethiopians access the Internet through mobile phones and could therefore not get online.  Ethiopia had restored Internet freedoms following a change of government in April this year.

Cameroon is urged to uphold digital rights in HRC 39

25 Sep 2018 | 

Freedom of expression, Other human rights, Access

During the 39th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the report for the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) - Cameroon, raised concerns over the effect of Internet shutdowns on the freedom of expression, assembly and association. New Zealand called upon the government of Cameroon to lift restrictions on mobile and Internet services that were not legitimate and in compliance with international human rights laws and standards on the use of force. The United States pointed out that these rights should be respected even when exercised online and called for the protection of the rights of those detained in recent political protests as provided for under both Cameroonian and international law. Internet shutdowns remain a key concern as Cameroon approaches elections in October this year.


August 2018

Curated by 

Foncham Denis Doh

MTN faces court challenge over illegal cell mast erection

6 Aug 2018 | 

Access, Jurisdiction, Telecommunications infrastructure

The Durban Anti-Cell Mast Alliance (DACMA) has filed a suit against Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) with the Durban high court, for indiscriminately planting new towers in the city. DACMA wants a 'review of the "secret deal" that MTN concluded with the eThekwini municipality' which protects it from any regulatory process. It is accusing MTN and the municipality of neglecting by laws and town planning schemes, including the health and safety of the population, considering that hundreds of cell masts are close to schools, old age homes and playgrounds. Research shows that new towers were not necessary because cellular connectivity has not increased.

Facebook threatens to suspend investments in Uganda due to social media tax

8 Aug 2018 | 

Taxation, Access, Economic - other issues

Following a recent social media tax in Uganda, where each mobile phone user pays a daily charge to access social media sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Twitter, Facebook has threatened to suspend its infrastructure investments.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Africa's Public Policy Manager, said that they have informed the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) that their present business model will be affected by the 200 Ugandan shillings (USD$0.05) daily social media tax implemented by the government  Facebook, under the Free Basics Initiative, intends to offer free Internet access for all its sites in 42 African countries.

Liquid Telecom provides Microsoft Express Route locally

10 Aug 2018 | 

Cloud computing, Telecommunications infrastructure, Economic - other issues

Liquid Telecom, a Microsoft partner, announced it has delivered the first Microsoft ExpressRoute service peering in Africa, allowing businesses to establish private connections to Azure. Previously, customers could only access ExpressRoute via peering locations in Europe.

Liquid Telecom recently deployed an ExpressRoute link for the Western Cape Government, which is overseeing a major upgrade to communications infrastructure in the region, making it the first customer with a direct private connection to the Azure Cloud that is exchanged locally in Africa.

Liquid Telecom is providing an ExpressRoute service to eight African countries on its own fibre. When Liquid Telecom goes live in data centres in South Africa later this year, it will be able to offer ExpressRoute directly to the Azure Cloud in Africa

Twitter Lite available in 5 more African countries

14 Aug 2018 | 

Access, Digital divide

Social media network Twitter indicated that it is launching Twitter Lite in 21 more countries, 5 of which are in Africa, and include Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Globally, 46 countries are using the app.

Twitter Lite is fast and user friendly, making it suitable for mobile users on slow networks or 2G networks that constitute 45% of global users.

New cloud based microfinance solution in Nigeria

17 Aug 2018 | 

Cloud computing, Digital divide, Economic - other issues

The Association of Non Bank Microfinance Institution of Nigeria (ANMFIN) and Oradian are in partnership to help microfinance institutions use Oradian cloud based solutions to increase financial inclusions in Nigeria. This partnership aims to simplify administration, reduce operational costs and give customers digital financial services.

Antonio Separovic, CEO of Oradian, shared their determination to solve the financial inclusion challenge with ANMFIN Cloud Express. With low cost services that benefit the needs of smaller microfinance institutions, this partnership aims to help financial institutions become more efficient, to grow and reach more customers in rural areas.

Progress made to connect Cape Town to Cairo

At the Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF,) Liquid Telecom announced that administrative progress has been made to connect Cairo-Egypt to Cape Town-South Africa. The project which should be finalised in 2020 will attract more Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to Africa as latency drops from 209 minutes to 97 minutes.

Ben Roberts, Liquid Telecom CTO, said that liquid infrastructures in different countries will be used to complement the partnership with other infrastructure providers and regulators. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will facilitate inter-city connectivity and increase intra-Africa broadband traffic.

The youth are expected to benefit most through education, social media and gaming applications, and the Internet of Things will expand to areas such as health agriculture, smart cities, transport and logistics.

Activists put pressure on Benin to abolish social media taxes

28 Aug 2018 | 

Taxation, Network neutrality, Access, Freedom of expression, Other human rights

Benin has introduced taxes on ‘open Internet services’ such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter which are not based in the country and therefore do not contribute to the local economy. Decree No. 2018-341 signed by President Patrice Talon in August requires that users pay 5 CFA francs (USD$0.008) per megabyte spent on these services. In addition, there is a 5% fee, on top of taxes, on texting and calls, as reported by the advocacy group Internet Sans Frontières (ISF). Activists in the region are calling for the abolition of social media taxes through a campaign dubbed #Taxepamesmo (Don’t tax my megabytes).

Zambia introduces Internet tax to protect local telecoms

28 Aug 2018 | 

Taxation, Network neutrality, Access, Freedom of expression, Other human rights

Taxation, net neutrality, access, Freedom of expression, Other human rights

In August, the Zambian government approved a tax on Internet calls to protect local telecom companies, stating that services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber do not pay taxes in Zambia. The tax, equalling to about USD$0.35 per day, is similar to Uganda’s daily OTT services tax introduced earlier in July this year.


July 2018

Curated by 

Grace Mutung'u

Zimbabwe holds historic elections

30 Jul 2018 | 

Development - other, Freedom of expression, Access

Zimbabwe held historic elections after the ouster of the long serving President Robert Mugabe in November 2017. The elections which took place on Monday 30th July, relied on technology for voter identification and results transmission. There were, however, concerns about data security on the election commission’s servers with some voters being unable to access their information. Unlike previous political seasons in the country, the Internet was not disrupted, but there is fear that the media and the Internet could be blocked due to the ongoing protests over delays in the announcement of presidential results.

The Internet is increasingly being used in African elections with countries digitising their voter registration and identification, and making use of mobile networks to transmit results from polling stations.

Google expands Internet access in Africa

25 Jul 2018 | 

Access, Telecommunications infrastructure, Development - other

Africa’s first Google Station, a public wifi service, went live in Nigeria on 25 July. This public WiFi service is an addition to other initiatives by the company to increase access to the Internet in Africa. These include a fibre optic cable project in Uganda and Ghana, and solar powered high altitude balloons that are expected to deliver the Internet to rural Kenya. While these projects are expected to connect the next billion, analysts have also raised concerns about developing the Internet in Africa along the advertising model.

Nigeria has a new national airline, but domain names are already taken

18 Jul 2018 | 

Domain name system (DNS)

On 18 July, Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Sirika Hadi, announced that plans were underway for a new Nigerian national carrier. However, a few days later it emerged that the domain names NigeriaAir.com, NigeriaAir.ng and NigeriaAir.com.ng had already been bought by a private individual who had put them up for sale. This has elicited a debate among Internet governance communities on the preservation of brands, cybersquatting and dispute resolution in county level domain (ccTLDs) names. Nigeria’s ccTLD .ng is administered by the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) whose complaint handling policy allows for independent arbitration of disputes.

Kenya: Data Protection Bill finally published

14 Jul 2018 | 

Privacy and data protection, Consumer protection

After several attempts, Kenya’s Data Protection Bill was published in May, and open to public participation this month. The Bill spells out principles of data protection with the aim of giving effect to Article 31 of the country’s Constitution which guarantees protection of privacy. During engagement, stakeholders pointed out that the Bill needed to be more future looking as the country had an emerging  data economy. They therefore recommended clarity on among others  limitation of rights, data portability and data produced through automated processes such as machine learning.

Uganda social media tax to be reviewed

11 Jul 2018 | 

Other human rights, Freedom of expression, Taxation

Ugandan Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, announced that the government would review the daily tax charged for use of over-the-top services (OTTs). Enacted as part of the country’s annual finance laws, the daily social media tax of 200 Ugandan shillings (USD$0.05) took effect on 1st July. The government aims to use the revenue from the tax to solve social problems caused by the increased use of social media. Meanwhile media reports indicate that mobile money transactions in the country have been on the decline since introduction of social media and mobile money taxes. The Central Bank has called for the removal of the taxes.

Measuring the Internet economy in Africa

10 Jul 2018 | 

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

In response to a rise in Internet shutdowns in Africa, advocacy organisations in Africa have been calculating the size of the internet economy. For example, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), measures ripple effects such as the interruption of supply chains in addition to direct losses incurred due to the disruption of the Internet. This model has now been developed into a tool that estimates the cost of an Internet disruption which will be launched at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Ghana later this year. While such tools were developed for advocacy against Internet shutdowns, they also help to measure the size of the Internet economy.

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