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The Spread of Surveillance Tech in Africa - A Security Concern beyond checks and balances

The spread of surveillance technology hits Africa in a very fragile time and it is going hand in hand with the illusion that the world wide web (internet) is providing the people to have free speech - and ultimately help them to reach freedom and Democracy. In fact, the world community needs to approach the Internet in a new and disruptive way, as we need a total re-shaping and a new governing landscape of the internet if we do not want the world wide web potentially become a tool of repression to humanity.

Unfortunately, this type of repression is happening right now in big scale and undermines in many ways the way forward to built those needed resilient civil societies, such as in Africa.

A detailed review on the danger and misuse of the internet and surveillance technology during the recent manipulated elections in Uganda is elaborated in this article =>

Aside of this issue to rebuild the internet, we need to understand the complexity of this process as it is directly linked with another most hotly debated topic in the world: how to develop economics and what does it take to steer a poor country from Third World to First World status?

It is a debate of particular relevance in Africa, which is home to a large number of countries in the Third World category while Africa also has some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

In recent years, economists have used the terms “developed countries” to denote First World and “emerging markets” to refer to Third World countries. The use of these terms camouflages the extent of under-development and challenges faced by the poorest. The terms are also viewed as a means of excusing First World responsibility to provide material support and solidarity.

However, Third World countries are characterised by a big agrarian sector and a huge proportion of the population living in rural areas. They are also marked by low productivity, disease, high infant mortality, lack of portable water and poor infrastructure. And, those countries and Africa as a continent, will be confronted with Climate Change crises exponentially.

While First World countries are highly urbanised, and citizens in Europe and some Asian countries enjoy universal access to health, education and housing, they also exhibited high productivity, strong service sectors and freedom of movement because of infrastructure. 

That was before Covid-19, Sars-CoV-2 was becoming the biggest challenge in our reality. Before Covid-19 struck the world, some countries in Africa were well placed to make this transition. These included Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire Gabon, Mozambique, Angola and South Africa. All this has changed now dramatically.

Some economists and 'think tanks' believed, that these countries can emulate the “Asian miracle”, but only if governments take decisive steps to achieve certain outcomes. Before Covid-19, nineteen out of 23 of the poorest nations in the world were in Africa. Of the 54 African countries, about 35 are now represented on the world’s poorest list.

Sadly, yet no African leader has pursued with single-minded determination the improvement of (rural) household incomes - nor did the World's biggest organisations lending. 

Instead their focus has generally been on economic growth with trickle down being viewed as a panacea for higher GDP per capita. All this has changed now, while most of Africa's leader have not been willing to realize Africa's biggest resources potential: its Youth.

Even in South Africa, the most "western-like" model of a Democracy in Africa, there is no set period for the poor in the black majority (90% of the population) to move into the middle class proper, with access to tertiary education, white goods and shelter, and annual household expenditure (2015) close to US $36,500.

Household incomes improve when the largest number of people get involved in technology-based productivity work. The only way this can be successfully done is to empower the rural agriculture sector in Africa that needs to become not necessarily a "high-tech" playing-field but must follow a disruptive model of  "smart farming" initiatives, not just in the agro-processing sector but in the DIY Aquaponic farming. As the agro-processing sector was the path being followed by Ethiopia (and the WFP / UN) we can see now, how fragile it is, if climate crises hit and politicians fail to develop a civil sector towards more democratic societies. (Note: Ethiopia has invested in agrarian reform to subsidise industries through economic processing zones.)

Many economists who looked at Africa saw the model of 'Asian Tigers' as the solution since all Tigers have a national innovation system that links government, well-funded research and development institutions such as the universities and industry, to reach one goal.  As an example, Taiwan boasts 25 research institutes, some covering the most advanced technologies like nano-technologies. Again, African nations do not have such institutions at all. And no Politician in Africa has made a sincere step forward to think about such innovation.

Of course there are signs that some of these lessons have been taken to heart, as Rwanda, for example, is doing very well by investing in information, technology and communication, and in its own people. But, it is a small and landlocked country and it faces the same challenges of total control from the top, looking at its  IT / internet structures.

So we do see, that there is a huge complexity of challenges in Africa between building new infrastructure forms of prosperity while creating also an infrastructure for civil societies that serve the freedom of speech; and, as we have seen by now (in the USofAmerica) that very few nations prosper or can develop their Democracy without improving towards a better and well-organised internal governance of their internet.

African leaders need to understand to direct effort and resources with a long-term goal, and that is including a disruptive approach if it comes to build civil societies that can withstand all the challenges in its complexity.

In the proximity of this obstacle, Leadership is key. Leadership, that allows to look into a better infrastructure of civil society and the governance of internet jurisdiction. Both will be relevant to allow change. Change, where only the African Youth is capable of to be the driving force.


mavECOn plc. is a savy business strategy boutique consultancy. We approach obstacles not as problems but as the opportunities to improve your business success with an indepth mantra: a business is a commercial, profitable and scalable process, that must function without you!

As we are specialized in creating methodologies and the systematic interpretation of such forecast tools we do see the Future for Businesses under very different precursors than other Consultancies. And we can proof it!


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