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As more Africans reach for the web, more leaders reach for ‘off’ switch

Even as connectivity increases, governments across Africa, and especially its autocratic leaders, have increasingly used control over the internet as a tool of repression, often with the claim to be combatting fake news or violent protests. These internet shutdowns, however, have costs that reach beyond politics. In 2018, 21 full or partial internet shutdowns were recorded in Africa. Already in 2019, the DRC, Gabon, and Sudan have experienced government-driven internet shutdowns. In Chad, social media has been blocked for almost a full year. While it may be a politically expedient tool, the countries economies and populations are suffering from it. While rendering political coordination difficult, it also prevents online money transfers (mobile money usage rates are highest in Africa), interferes with healthcare functions, and shuts down many globalized markets. An estimated 7.1% of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa comes from mobile technologies, which are driven by web connectivity. “Some governments are making good strides in their efforts aimed at getting more users online,” shared one researcher at a Uganda-based internet think tank and advocacy group. “However, alongside this is an increasingly vocal citizenry who demand rights, transparency, and accountability. In response we see the very same states interfering with access.”

Source: As more Africans reach for web, more leaders reach for ‘off’ switch

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