Africa: Londa 2021 Report Renews Calls For Greater Transparency in Digital Governance

Many African countries are ‘too busy violating digital rights’ to focus on the digital opportunities that the Covid-19 pandemic has delivered, according to a new report. 

Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a Pan-African social enterprise, issued the warning as it unveiled its annual Londa: State of Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa Annual Report 2021 at the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum 2022 in Kenya.

Expanding on last year’s report, Londa delves into themes of privacy, freedom of expression, access to information, segmentation and exclusion, digital transformation, affordability and gender across 22 countries.

This edition captures the gaps and provides recommendations to achieve a digitally inclusive and rights-respecting Africa.

Gbenga Sesan, PIN’s executive director, said: “Africa needs to make an urgent choice between focusing on clampdowns and maximising digital opportunities so we don’t miss out on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As Paradigm Initiative’s 2021 Londa report shows, yet again, many of the 22 African countries featured in the report are too busy violating digital rights to focus on the digital opportunities that the Covid-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on their relevance.

“The report is timely as it assesses the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa, and also provides recommendations on what each country must do to move towards realising the huge gains that rights-respecting and inclusive digital policies and practices bring.”

Country focus
  • Rwanda and Zambia enacted legislation on data protection and privacy
  • Zambia passed its first data protection law
  • In Ethiopia, criminal defamation was scrapped to entail civil liability only, and not criminal liability
  • in Botswana, the government introduced new regulations to expand its powers over the digital space
  • South Africa also developed its data protection framework further, issuing guidance notes on
    processing children’s personal data
  • Ghana reported a steady development in infrastructure and increased internet usage with a contrasting decline in the respect for digital rights
Londa’s overall findings
  • Even with the growth noted in countries such as Kenya and Ghana, a huge gap remains in countries such as Malawi, where infrastructural and economic concerns threaten the progress of digitalisation and policy implementation
  • This highlights the need for effective policies and programmes focused on developing ICT infrastructure, bridging the digital divide and, by extension, fostering open governance and inclusion
  • The country reports in Londa 2021 renew calls for greater transparency in digital governance and the
    collective responsibility to understand the crosscutting issues that lead to abuse, disabling environment and poor policies in the digital ecosystem
  • A digitally inclusive and rightsrespecting Africa is attainable with sub-national, national, regional and continental commitment and collaboration to deepen digital inclusion and protect human rights online

The Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum took place in Kenya from 2 April to 20 May 2022 bringing together more than 800 delegates and participants for 39 days to dissect the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa across 18 virtual sessions and 16 in-person sessions.