The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) banned all mobile money transactions as well as trade on the local stock exchange in a bid to slow down the country’s declining currency. Zimbabwe has been struggling with its monetary policy since the 2000s when the United States of America and others imposed trade sanctions. The country banned the use of foreign currencies in 2019 when it reintroduced the Zimdollar.
Mobile money is a commonly used means of payment, with mobile transactions accounting for 84.8% of transaction volumes in 2019. Local company Econet Wireless, which has over 10 million subscribers, stated that it would consult with the government over the measures. Panapress reports that RBZ has since loosened the ban and allowed limited payments for utilities like water and power of up to 5000 Zimdollars.
Malawians are hopeful for the restoration of democracy after the country became the first in Africa to hold a peaceful presidential re-election and hand over power to the opposition. The country’s 2019 presidential election was annulled by the constitutional court in February this year, after the court found that there was tampering with the votes in the transmission of results over the Internet. Moreover, there was a partial Internet shutdown prior to the election. The re-election was peaceful, with the Internet remaining on. The new president was sworn into office on 28 June in a ceremony that was streamed online.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that sections 2 to 38; 55 to 109; 111; and 114 (1), (2) and (3) of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) would commence on 1 July 2020. POPI was enacted in 2013, but most of its provisions did not come into effect immediately. The provisions coming into effect will regulate the lawful processing of data and the general enforcement of the Act. They will require issuance of codes of conduct by the information regulator.
The president has directed the South African Human Rights Commission to hand over all functions related to the oversight of data protection to the information regulator by 30 June 2021.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice has fined Togo US$3400 after ruling that Togo’s Internet shutdowns were illegal and an affront to its citizens’ right to freedom of expression. This follows a petition filed by Amnesty International citing government ordered Internet shutdowns on several dates in 2017. The petition was supported by civil society organisations working in Africa, some of which filed briefs as friends of the court.
The ruling sets an important precedent for the region where there has been a rise in government ordered Internet shutdowns.
The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (AfDEC), an advocacy coalition on digital rights in Africa, has issued a position paper on the Internet in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper calls for a more equitable Internet, pointing out policies and laws that many African governments need to change in order to facilitate Internet access for all. According to the paper, ‘there is a need for a stronger campaign against consumer-facing taxes on data and internet services, which have had long-standing effects of in-creasing connectivity costs for consumers, a scenario likely to worsen during the pandemic. Tax and licensing regimes of note in the region include the social media tax in Uganda, and licensing fees for bloggers and other online content producers in Tanzania and Kenya'.
AfDEC has also raised concerns over growing trends during COVID-19, such as limiting the freedom and access of information; censorship; and the violations of the right to privacy with a ‘lack of transparency by governments and telecommunications companies in the sharing of information for contact tracing and distribution of aid and relief funds’.
Zambia’s cabinet has ratified the African Union (AU) Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection – also known as the Malabo convention, which requires 15 ratifications to come into force. The convention harmonises cyber-laws in Africa and creates avenues for cross-border cooperation. Zambia is the sixth state to ratify the convention, which was adopted in 2014. The last country to deposit an instrument of ratification with the AU, was Rwanda in June 2019.