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

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Karl Steinacker

Digital Advisor

International Civil Society Centre

Karl joined the Centre in June 2019 after a professional career in institutions of German technical co-operation and as humanitarian manager in the United Nations. He spent years in conflict zones, such as the Gaza Strip, the Great Lakes region in Central Africa, and in the Sahel. He led multi-sectoral teams on data management, refugee registration and biometrics. At the ICS Centre he will work pro bono on issues relating to artificial intelligence, digital transformation, identity and trust as well as their impact on civil society in general and ICSOs in particular. Karl, born in 1960 in Germany, is a graduate of the Political Science faculty of the Free University of Berlin and studied Public International Law at Cambridge University.