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Africa's data protection woefully inadequate

Africa’s data protection woefully inadequate

Following the Cambridge Analytica incident, industry analysts have warned Africa must tighten control over data drawn from the continent.

Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager for Anglophone West Africa at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria said the continent must take data protection more seriously.

"The laissez-faire attitude of not just data custodians, but of data owners is very alarming. On a continent with unbridled data harvesting processes completed and ongoing, not many appreciate nor care about what's been done with those data. A government agency in an African country once sold laptops used for some data harvesting exercise to private individuals without completely erasing the private data mined with the computer.

Adegoke added that neither Kenya nor Nigeria (both of which were impacted significantly by Cambridge Analytica) have data protection laws.

According to Adegoke, several countries across Africa lack effective data protection frameworks.

"In Africa, only about fourteen countries have a data protection law according to a recent report on Data Protection published by Deloitte. The report further shows that in the whole of Anglophone West Africa, only Ghana has Data protection frameworks. While Nigeria's process is ongoing, Liberia has no frameworks at all. Sierra Leone and The Gambia has some level of constitutional coverage which isn't sufficient given new realities. Central Africa is worse. From the Central Africa Republic to Congo DR and Congo Brazzaville, South Sudan and Cameroon, no frameworks exist!"

He recommends immediate actions like the signing into law of Nigeria's Digital Rights and Freedom Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari after it was recently passed by the Nigerian parliament in order to remedy the country's shortfall.

Tom Makau, a telecommunications industry analyst based in Nairobi told ITWeb Africa last week that Kenya must expedite the process of reviewing the Data protection bill which has been before it's parliament for over three years with no indication of when it will be passed and implemented.

"Other than discussing and passing into law the Kenya Data protection bill, there is need to ensure compliance of the laws by first clearly stipulating the rights and obligations of companies that collect data from Kenyan citizens," added Makau.

A tweet posted by Phumzile van Damme, a member of parliament for South Africa's official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), called for the country's communications regulator to learn from the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

"As the 2019 election draws closer are we learning the lessons from the US election and the stories of the involvement of Cambridge Analytica & Bell Pottinger in elections in Africa using digital dark arts to manipulate and not persuade voters? And more importantly, are we ready? I have been reading & learning a lot on the subject of late. I hope ICASA is doing the same as regulation always lags behind technological developments. There are many Cambridge Analyticas & Bell Pottingers out there hawking their services to desperate political parties..."

Other than a denial by Kenya's ruling Jubilee Party of any influence in the country's election last year, no other African governments have commented on the global scandal.

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