NSA Surveillance Scandal: Africa Must Participate in the Dialogue

Published on 16th July 2013

The German federal government has demanded an overhaul of international privacy protection rules arguing that international law lags decades behind the digital reality of the 21st century. According to Chancellor Angela Merkel, there ought to be harmonization between individual country laws and the rest of the countries. This comes in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal that revealed unfettered snooping on high profile communications as well as the ongoing Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Meeting in Durban.

Considering the speed at which Africa is embracing digital technology, the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) hosted Academia, Think Tank Leaders, Business Leaders, Politicians and NGOs from across Sub-Sahara Africa to discuss the theme: Digital Revolution: Opportunity or Threat to Africa? Participants in this IREN 10th Africa Resource Bank meeting discussed the opportunities and threats posed by  the digital revolution to Africa; the impact of digital revolution on African youth; ways in which the digital revolution can enhance people participation in governance issues in Africa and the role of digital tools in enhancing productivity (trade, economics, health, agriculture, education, environment and culture) in Africa.  As a follow-up, IREN in 2012 also hosted media practitioners across Eastern Africa to discuss how the media fraternity can participate in Harnessing the Digital Revolution to Benefit Africa.

Africans are embracing digital technology in its broadest sense at a very high rate with less reflection on both its positive and negative effects. It is strategic that Africans study keenly the likely outcome of the ongoing digital revolution to the continent and formulate the requisite strategies to  navigate around it.

The International Conference of Data Protection that incorporates state officials, NGOs and international organizations in its Montreux Declaration in 2005 called on the United Nations to draft "a legally binding instrument which clearly sets out in detail the rights to data protection and privacy as enforceable human rights." Germany is pressing for the overhaul of international privacy protection rules. Africa must actively participate in this dialogue lest the outcomes impact on the continent adversely.


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