Current status of digital rights in Africa

Digital rights envelop human and legal rights that allow people access to digital media as well as electronic devices and telecommunications networks. In the context of digital technologies, this concept is also related to the protection and realization of the right to privacy and freedom of expression, among other existing rights. Several countries have laws in place that recognize an individual’s right to internet access.

The increased availability of the internet will provide the continent with multiple benefits

When it comes to Africa, the internet is not as widespread as in other parts of the world. According to estimates from 2011, around 13.5% of the continent’s population had access to the internet. What is more, there is a big digital divide inside Africa, as most internet activity and infrastructure is concentrated in Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, and some other smaller economies such as Mauritius and Seychelles.

However, the telecommunications market in Africa is one of the fastest-growing in the world, even though it is still in its early stages. The increased availability of the internet will provide the continent with multiple benefits, from developing reliable weather models that will improve agriculture to improving quality of life thanks to telemedicine and distance education all the way to boosting the economy by allowing small businesses to sell to people that live overseas.

Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of online communication, and digital rights respectively in some countries has been put in the spotlight.


Even though the protestors who participated in the historic Malawi presidential election re-run used apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp to organize their efforts, Malawi is still one of the countries with the lowest and slowest growing rates of internet access and there is still a threat to digital rights. Poor infrastructure and high data tariffs are the reason why only 14% of the population has internet access.

What is more, there is police surveillance of internet users, harsh sentences for those that violate country laws as well as plenty of online content removal. Hopefully, Malawi can make the most of this change of government and ensure Malawians can enjoy their digital rights.


Zimbabwe is one of the African countries that have experienced growth in internet penetration. With COVID-19 highlighting the importance of various digital tools and platforms, law-making authorities should understand the necessity for a democratic legal framework that will help regulate online activity. Such a bill is in development – the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill, with the objective of increasing cybersecurity that will build trust and confidence in the use of information and communication technologies. However, there are certain parts of the bill that raise concerns such as the statement that the military would have access to private communications between citizens in order to prevent subversion. 

MISA Zimbabwe, whose goal is to promote and defend media freedom and freedom of expression, hopes that local authorities will refine this law to comply with international guidelines on cybersecurity.

South Africa

On the other hand, the situation in South Africa is much better in terms of infrastructure and connectedness. It can even be compared to those of Europe and North America. Recently, data protection legislation has been introduced for the first time and various organizations are under obligation to report any data breach.

What is more, due to the constantly growing mobile gaming sector, gaming, and online gambling are very big in South Africa. Seeing as to how there is a lot of money to be earned in such a way, citizens have to look for licensed and trustworthy providers that offer fast money withdrawals as well.


Around 46 percent of the Nigerian population has access to the internet but there is no law that protects, administers, and upholds the digital rights of its citizens. The Digital Right and Freedom Bill have been in the National Assembly since 2016 but president Buhari has refused to sign it into law. The bill’s intention is to promote freedom of expression, assembly and association online as well as define the legal framework concerning surveillance and data privacy rights. If Nigeria passes this bill, it could set a great example for other African countries and inspire them to do the same.

These countries are just a few examples of what is going on in Africa in terms of digital rights. There is so much potential there and every single country should focus on the infrastructure and legislature that will make use of the internet safe and accessible.

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