Disrupt & Innovate

Upcoming Digital Debate: Who is afraid of African data sovereignty?

23rd March 2021 by Karl Steinacker

Those who follow the news know that these days, politicians tend to use the term sovereignty mainly in two different contexts: when it comes to close borders and keep migrants and refugees out or in discussions that touch on the ongoing transformation of our societies. That’s the moment they advocate for technological, cyber, and/or data sovereignty.

It was, thus, a question of time that somebody would bring up the issue of African data sovereignty. It happened in the weekly magazine Jeune Afrique in summer 2020 when the Senegalese law professor Jean-Louis Corréa stated that the data extraction by entities of the Global North is not benefitting Africans. He made no difference between data collection and mining for commercial and other purposes and called on African leaders to resist the ongoing cyber colonialism[1].

At around the same time, Paul Currion identified the unfinished business of decolonization and described it from the following angles: how aid flows map soft power relationships between former colonial powers and former colonies; how the career trajectory of many international aid workers often resembles that of colonial administrators; and how the aid beneficiary has been constructed as a post-colonial Other[2]. And now data.

Hence, it seems obvious to put the role of Africa in the global digital market on the agenda of the Digital Debates event series which was launched by the International Civil Society Centre in 2021. Once a month Barbara Iverson hosts such a debate. The next one will be held on 1 April and discuss the question: Is Africa “falling prey” to data colonialism?

We invite you to join this discussion here: Digital Debate 2: Is Africa ‘falling prey’ to Data Colonialism? – The International Civil Society Centre (icscentre.org)

Barbara Iverson will host Jean-Louis Corréa together with Karen Guevara of the Equanimity Foundation.

[1] Jean-Louis Corréa, [Tribune] Numérique : l’Afrique veut donner de la voix, in : Jeune Afrique, 9 July 2020,  https://t1p.de/hgql

[2]  Paul Currion, Decolonising aid, again – The unfinished business of decolonisation is the original sin of the modern aid industry, in: The New Humanitarian, 13 July 2020, https://t1p.de/4ful

Karl Steinacker

Digital Advisor

International Civil Society Centre

Karl Steinacker is currently the Digital Advisor of the International Civil Society Centre. He studied political science at the Free University of Berlin and international law at Cambridge University. He then spent three decades working for the United Nations (UNDP, UNRWA, DPKO, UNHCR) in the fields of development, peacekeeping and refugee protection. At the UN Refugee Agency, he held positions in Africa and at its Headquarters and was responsible for Registration, Statistics, and Data and Identity Management as well as for Camp Coordination/Camp Management.