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In regards to internet freedom, Africa got off to an awful start in 2019. Internet disruptions were registered in five countries (Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Sudan and Zimbabwe) within the first three weeks of the year. The disruptions were related to elections, protests against government policies, and what seemed like a coup attempt. With several nations set to conduct elections during the course of 2019, many more shutdowns could be witnessed.

This report presents observations on the shutdowns experienced to date, and points to a link between the level of authoritarianism in a country and how long a president has been in power, and the likelihood of experiencing a network shutdown. It also looks at the economic and social impacts of these disruptions.

Despots and Disruptions explores five aspects related to internet shutdowns in Africa:

  • Internet disruptions are the preserve of Africa’s most authoritarian states.

  • Longevity in power = high propensity to order shutdowns.

  • The high cost of internet disruptions persists long after access is restored.

  • Could 2019 be the year of most internet shutdowns in Africa?

  • There is more open acknowledgement of disruptions by ISPs and governments.