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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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, 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.



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