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.

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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, and 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.

June 2018

Curated by 

Foncham Denis Doh

Shift in Ethiopian content policy

22 Jun 2018 | 

Privacy and data protection, Development - other, Other human rights, Freedom of expression

Ethiopia had a change of leadership in April 2018 when Abiye Ahmed was sworn in as prime minister after the abrupt resignation of former prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. Since taking over, Abiye has taken measures to increase plurality, including the release of political prisoners and peace building with Ethiopia's neighbour, Eritrea. Regarding Internet policy, the country recently unblocked (link is external) 264 websites and TV channels. The Open Observatory for Network Interference (OONI) which measures Internet connectivity, confirmed (link is external) that previously blocked sites had been unblocked.

Vodacom launches Smart Citizen app in South Africa

18 Aug 2018 | 

Access, Cultural diversity

The Tambo District municipality in South Africa was provided with the Smart Citizen app which makes e-government a reality (link is external). The district’s partnership with Vodacom has also yielded Internet connectivity and a call centre for app deployment. The smartphone app enables citizens to monitor and report government services such as water and sanitation, while the municipality also uses the platform to quickly identify and react to complaints. The app is available in English and Xhosa, one of the local languages.

Enhancing the Central Africa Backbone

13 Jun 2018 | 

Telecommunications infrastructure

The eight-year old Central Africa Backbone (CAB) project (link is external) aimed at interconnecting countries of the Central African sub-region is considered to be the slowest in Africa. Congo Brazzaville is pushing the project forward with an announcement about fiber link tenders to Cameroon and the Central African Republic by the Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Digital Economy, Leon Dust Ibombo. 78.2% of the CFAF43 658 000 000 (USD$ 77 259 417.536) funding the project will be provided by the African Development Bank, and this initiative credits Congo Brazzaville as an active partner in the CAB project.

Mobile Telecommunications Network launches IoT services in South Africa

1 Jun 2018 | 

Internet of Things (IoT), Economic - other issues

Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) group partners with CISCO Jasper Control Center, to provide Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity platform (link is external) for enterprises wishing to provide IoT services in South Africa. The control centre is the main global IoT platform that enables customers to launch, manage and sell IoT services globally. MTN is the first operator in South Africa to own a control centre and the demands are high from all industries, in particular connected cars, vehicle tracking, building, security automation, and logistics. Enterprises can cheaply provide connected services throughout South Africa and globally.

May 2018

Curated by 

Grace Mutung'u

Content policy wave continues to hit the continent

28 May 2018 | 

Freedom of expression, Privacy and data protection, Other human rights

Africa is currently witnessing an upsurge of national content regulation laws, igniting debate on the balance between online security and personal freedoms. This month, the government of Zambia defended the Cyber Security, Cyber Crime and E-commerce bills which activists fear will stifle social media. In Kenya, a public interest petition has been filed against parts of the newly enacted Computer Misuse and Cyber-Crimes Act, that criminalises the publication of fake news. Other such recent laws include Uganda’s social media tax as well as Kenya and Tanzania’s new licensing of blogs and vlogs.​

Somalia’s first Internet Exchange Point announced

17 May 2018 | 

Telecommunications infrastructure

Somalia’s Ministry of Post, Telecom and Technology has announced the establishment of the country’s first Internet Exchange Point (IXP). Known as Mogadishu (MogIX), the exchange has attracted interest from telecom operators, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), academia, content providers, government, and the Somali Network Operators Group. The IXP – which will allow providers to exchange traffic locally – is expected to serve as an incentive for the development of local content and applications.​

Data protection guidelines for Africa launched

8 May 2018 | 

Privacy and data protection

In May 2018, the Internet Society and  African Union Commission (AUC) launched the Personal Data Protection Guidelines for Africa in Dakar, Senegal. The guidelines provide a model for the continent where only 17 out of 55 countries have comprehensive data protection laws. They seek enhancement of trust in the digital economy through privacy protection and the responsible use of personal data. They also recommend roles for governments and policymakers, data protection authorities, data controllers, processors, civil society, and citizens.

April 2018

Curated by 

Foncham Denis Doh

Blockchain-based micro financing for food retailers in Kenya

19 Apr 2018 | 

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

Nairobi-based IBM researchers and Twiger Foods, a food distribution company, are using blockchain technology to help farmers obtain loans. 220 retailers in Kenya are using the platform. The financing system simplifies the challenges faced by small enterprises in obtaining loans due to high costs, collateral requirements, and lack of credit score. Credit worthiness is calculated by analysing purchase records on mobile phones.This gives confidence to lenders, and the whole process is managed by blockchain technology. The process is transparent, fraud is reduced, and loans are taken quickly.

Cybercrimes on the rise in Africa

13 Apr 2018 | 

Cybersecurity, Cybercrime

A cybersecurity study conducted in 2017 by Serianu, Nairobi, covering 700 public and private institutions in 10 African countries, shows that Africa lost USD$3.5 billion last year due to cybercrime. Cyber-attacks are a problem to security, economic growth, and stability, and are frequent in banks, government agencies, and small and medium enterprises, with higher incidents in cities where Internet speed is high. While the government and private sector are yet to invest enough in cybersecurity, households need to finance the protection of their own digital infrastructure which is also a target.

Google to release new Africa app to boost Internet speed

13 Apr 2018 | 


Google will release a new app, Google Go, which will allow Internet users to deal with challenges such as lack of high-speed connectivity and high data costs. The app reduces search engines data volume by 40%, and makes previous searches available offline. According to Mr Mzamo Masito, Google Africa chief marketing officer, the app is a solution for weak data connectivity, high data costs, and low storage space, which prevent people from fully exploiting the Internet. The new app will be available in Google’s play store in 26 African countries.

Vodacom Nigeria partners with Intelsat to expand connectivity in West Africa

11 Apr 2018 | 

Access, Telecommunications infrastructure, Convergence

Satellite service provider Intelsat confirmed its partnership with Internet service provider Vodacom to provide satellite services for the expansion of Vodacom’s broadband network in West Africa.

According to the agreement, Vodacom will use the services of Intelsat35e to deliver fast, high quality, and resilient broadband connectivity to the banking, oil, and gas companies in West Africa. The company will also be able to enhance services offered to current customers, and contribute to extending overall broadband connectivity in Nigeria.

March 2018

Curated by 

Grace Mutung'u​

African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (ACFTA) signed

21 Mar 2018 | 

E-commerce, Economic - other issues, Development - other

African heads of state signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) on 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. Speaking during the ceremony, African Union Chair Mr Paul Kagame explained that the agreement aspires to boost intra-African trade by removing barriers to the trade of goods and services. It will come into effect once ratified by member states and its implementation will be phased. The FTA will rely on digital technologies and will boost the creation and exchange of digital goods and services on the continent.

ECOWAS Court judgement on fake news

1 Mar 2018 | 

Content policy, Freedom of expression

The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) delivered a landmark judgement on Gambian speech offence laws. The claim had been brought to court by Gambian journalists arrested and detained under the country’s criminal laws on libel, sedition, and false news. The ECOWAS Court found that the arrest and detention of the four Gambian journalists was a violation of their rights to freedom of expression, liberty, and freedom of movement. It directed Gambia to immediately repeal or amend the speech laws to align them with the country’s obligations under international law.



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