Data protection laws in Africa: What you need to know

African countries are slowly but surely implementing data protection laws, with much credit to the EU’s GDPR. Here what IT leaders in business need to know.

data protection / security / risk management / data privacy / GDPR
Anya Berkut / Getty Images

African countries have been trailing their global counterparts when it comes to enacting laws to protect the digital data of their citizens. But that is changing, and enterprise technology leaders doing business on the continent need to be aware of current legislation in order to make sure digital services are in compliance with new laws.

Almost half of Africa's 53 countries — including some of the biggest sub-Saharan markets —have adopted some form of regulation with the goal of protecting personal data, according to Privacy International. The forward momentum around data protection in the region has, to a large extent, been driven by the European Union's ground-breaking GDPR legislation, which was adopted in 2016, and which has provided a superb framework and a successful model for many countries' legislation globally.

In addition to the GDPR, another accelerant was undoubtedly the exposure of the dirty tricks being employed by the British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Those revelations revealed how vulnerable African countries were to digital manipulation.

In March 2018, the Guardian and New York Times reported how the firm had been hired in both Nigeria and Kenya to influence elections. In the Nigerian case, the firm was hired to dig up ‘kompromat' on the leader of the opposition, Muhammad Buhari, while in Kenya, they had been hired to influence the results of both the 2013 and 2017 presidential campaigns. To add insult to injury, Cambridge Analytica was also revealed to be actively working to stoke racial resentment and intolerance in South Africa.

African nations move to coordinate data laws

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