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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28 May 2018 |
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.
17 May 2018 |
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.
8 May 2018 |
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.
19 Apr 2018 |
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.
13 Apr 2018 |
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.
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.
11 Apr 2018 |
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.
21 Mar 2018 |
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.
1 Mar 2018 |
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.
16 Feb 2018 |
Airtel Kenya has completed the payment of USD$25 million for the 4G LTE 800 MHz frequency band.This follows pressure from the country’s communications regulatory authority, since 2017, for Airtel and Telecom Kenya to install an infrastructure that supports high speed 4G Internet services. Airtel is currently testing the signal, and aims to cover 65 sites.
16 Feb 2018 |
A mobile money wallet, Straight2Bank, which enables users to carry out transactions between their Standard Chartered Bank account and their Airtel money account, is operational in Zambia. Straight2Bank, launched by Airtel and Standard Chartered Bank, is expected to reduce the risk of fraud and theft common with cash payments, and to facilitate timely payments, giving the customers the flexibility to transfer money from their accounts to mobile wallets. The service is available internationally, thus simplifying international money transactions.
16 Feb 2018 |
Microsoft4Afrika is partnering with the United States International University Africa (USIU-Africa) to launch Kenya’s first AppFactory in Nairobi. The AppFactory will allow university graduates to develop skills in software engineering, thus responding to the needs of the jobs market. Microsoft4Afrika aims to build skills and empower people to be creative, and push Africa’s digital transformation forward. Africa counts 14 AppFactories and, of the 500 graduates from last year, 85% secured full-time jobs within three months of graduation.
7 Feb 2018 |
On 7 February 2018, PAIX, a pan-African provider of cloud and data centre services, announced the finalisation of an investment project that lead to the creation of West Africa Data Centers(LTD), WADC, in Ghana. WADC is one of Ghana’s carriers neutral data center offering services to 20 network operators and service providers from Accra data centers, and is linked to all four undersea cables landing in Ghana. PAIX’s investment is part of its strategy to build a Pan-Africa data centre platform.
6 Feb 2018 |
A study published by Internet without Borders (IWB) argues that telecom companies Orange Senegal (Sonatel) and Safaricom do not respect international and national standards on privacy and freedom of expression online. According to the study, Sonatel does not publish on its website the terms and conditions of prepaid services and usage of personal data. Safaricom publishes little details on the type of information collected and security of data. This practice is found to be different from the one of the mother companies. IWD recommends transparency, protection of human rights by states, and social responsibility from companies. In reaction to the study, Sonatel justified that users are given the terms and conditions for prepaid mobile offers on subscription at selected sale points, under strict legal obligations to control correct identification and registration of subscribers. The company also stated that it respects the rights of customers over their personal data, and reports to the Senegalese authority on the use of such data.
26 Jan 2018 |
The African Union’s specialised agency for economic issues, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), has partnered with the Internet of Things Forum Africa (#IOTFA), which takes place on the 14 – 15 March 2018, at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. IOTFA 2018 will run under the theme ‘Powering a new era of operational transformation,’ and will showcase the leading developments in the Internet of Things (IoT). The partnership goes to show the commitment of African leaders to adopt new technologies that can transform their economies. The forum will bring various multistakeholders together and will create a fertile ground for potential public-private-partnerships in the IoT space.
22 Jan 2018 |
The pilot phase of Interoperability among mobile money platforms in Kenya was launched on 22 January 2018. Following an agreement by three of Kenya’s major mobile money platforms (Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Telkom Money, and Airtel Money) to integrate their systems, Kenyans will now be able to transfer funds across networks. The interoperable platform will be released nationally in March. The mobile money interoperability will present consumers with greater choice, enhance service quality, and ultimately drive down the high cost of mobile money transactions.
8 Jan 2018 |
In a meeting in Accra in January, the government of Ghana revealed that it will complete the Digital Terrestrial Television Switch nationwide by the second quarter of 2018. Ghana laid down its roadmap for the transition from analogue television broadcasting to digital terrestrial broadcast in 2006 following, the Geneva 2006 (GE-06) Agreement (revised) at the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) Regional Radiocommunications Conference. The Digital Switchover Project under the National Communications Authority (NCA) which missed its initial deadline year of 2015 is confident of meeting all deliverables by the new deadline.
3 Jan 2018 |
Following the launch of the .africa Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) name, it has become imperative to build awareness to encourage quick adoption. A team dubbed the ‘Summit team’ have been commissioned by the .africa gTLD Registry to embark on a two-week long trek up Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, in January 2018. The journey will take place from 5 to 23 January 2018. Climbing the highest peak on the continent as captured on the Summit team’s website will ‘signify the great heights that Africans have climbed to launch one domain name for the entire African continent’. Among other things, the objective of the climb will build awareness, encourage adoption and build a sense of pride and ownership among Africans on the usage of the .africa domain.