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25 May 2021 | Updated on 25 May 2021
African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms

What is the status of privacy and data protection in Africa? The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition launches groundbreaking research that puts a spotlight on states’ regional and global commitments to privacy.

“Privacy and personal data protection in Africa: A rights-based survey of legislation in eight countries” analyses the status of privacy and data protection legislation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. It provides an examination of states’ regional and global commitments to privacy and the impact of countries’ legislation on privacy.

Civil society has a key role in monitoring the implementation of privacy laws and other related legislation in order to hold governments to account at different levels, the findings reveal. At the local and national levels, this monitoring involves documenting and reporting breaches of data protection and privacy legislation, while at the regional and international levels there is a need for the formation of coalitions by civil society groups to strengthen their capacity to monitor implementation of the laws and increase their engagement with regional and international human rights mechanisms.

Two key frameworks were used for analysis in this research: Principle 8 of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, which deals with privacy and personal data protection, and the human rights-based approach to policy and legislative development, whose basic principles include participation, accountability, non-discrimination and equality, empowerment and legality.

This publication is part of the “Strengthening a rights-based approach to data protection in Africa” project, aimed at fostering a rights-based approach to the adoption and implementation of this legislation. It was produced with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ).

Highlights on privacy and data protection in Africa

Of the countries surveyed, Tanzania appears to be the least committed to actively developing a comprehensive privacy and data protection law.

In South Africa, protection against collective “data harms” is seen as necessary. African human rights discourse has strongly focused on collective rights and emergence of collectivist understandings of law in this context is key.

In Kenya, only stakeholders who were “aware” of the bill’s passage participated in its creation, resulting in gaps in the legislation such as the protection of the personal data of children.

Ethiopia’s draft proclamation is aligned with AfDec’s Principle 8, but it falls short on due process, including the ability to contest the surveillance, to seek remedies for unlawful surveillance, and in post-surveillance notification of the individual being surveilled.

In Togo, where fresh evidence of unlawful surveillance of religious and political leaders has recently emerged, there is a need to strengthen oversight mechanisms, as well as independent judicial authorisation.

More information

Download the full report.

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