Efforts to counter the use of surveillance for digital rights suppression in Africa gained momentum during a convening in Port Louis, Mauritius, that brought together key stakeholders. Paradigm Initiative (PIN), in partnership with Open Society Foundation (OSF) and Unwanted Witness, hosted the convening on Countering Surveillance and Digital Repression in Africa.
The meeting brought together activists, academics, tech companies, civil society, regional human rights mechanisms, as well as political actors within the continent. It sought to build strategies to counter fundamental human rights violations arising from the pervasive surveillance and digital repression on the African continent.
The conversation focused on the state of deployment of surveillance technologies in Africa, with researchers sharing findings on the different regions.
Researchers at the meeting were unanimous that while surveillance cannot be brought to an absolute end, mitigation is possible, with the most notable measures being the usage of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). On the other hand, it was noted that governments, as primary stakeholders, have the task of not only enacting regulations that protect the citizenry but also of bringing them to life through strong political will.
Speaking at the event, Mr. ‘Gbenga Sesan, PIN’s Executive Director, challenged stakeholders to commit themselves to actualising the findings. His sentiments were echoed by Mr. Allan Sempala Kigozi from Unwanted Witness, who said the convening is an avenue to influence policy, as well as mould gatekeepers who will, in turn, ensure that state surveillance does not impede on human rights.
Participants had the opportunity to engage in insightful discussions with industry leaders and experts, network with like-minded professionals and potential collaborators, gain valuable knowledge and insights on deploying surveillance and protecting citizens' privacy in Africa, and contribute to shaping the African digital future.
The forum took place ahead of the Privacy Symposium Africa 2023, which started on 7th November and ends today, 9th November, in Port Louis, Mauritius, under the theme, "Navigating Privacy in the Age of Digital Transformation."
The symposium brought together academics, researchers, policymakers, and industry practitioners to discuss the latest trends and challenges related to data privacy and data protection. Key areas of focus at the symposium include healthcare, finance, education, and media.
Paradigm Initiative (PIN) connects under-served young Africans with digital opportunities and ensures the protection of their rights. We have worked in communities across Nigeria since 2007 and across Africa since 2017, building experience, community trust, and an organisational culture that positions us as a leading non-governmental organisation in ICT for Development and Digital Rights on the continent.
Across our regional offices in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and beyond, we have impacted youth with improved livelihoods through our digital inclusion and digital rights programs. The organisation’s programs include Life Skills. ICT. Financial Readiness. Entrepreneurship (LIFE) training program, Dufuna, a digital readiness workshop for girls, and life at school club program. Our interventions are spread across more than 27 African countries.
PIN has also built online platforms that educate and serve as safe spaces for reporting digital rights violations. These mediums, in the form of reports, short films, and educational online platforms, include Ayeta, Londa, and Ripoti. The organisation is also the convener of the annual Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum, a platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, policy directions debated, and partnerships forged for action.