Rights groups join forces to counter surveillance, digital repression in Africa

A police officer works inside the surveillance operation center. [AP Photo] 

Several rights groups have called on African governments to protect their citizens from digital rights suppression.

Paradigm Initiative (PIN), in partnership with Open Society Foundation (OSF) and Unwanted Witness, said a time has come for the continent to build strategies to counter these fundamental human rights violations that are arising from the pervasive surveillance and digital repression on the African continent.

In a press statement to newsrooms, the rights groups said 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).

“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,” read part of the statement.

The groups convened a forum dubbed ‘Countering Surveillance and Digital Repression in Africa’ in Port Louis, Mauritius with a conversation focusing on the state of deployment of surveillance technologies on the continent.

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 mold 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 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.