AfIGF 2019 Explores Shared Responsibilities of Stakeholders for a Robust Internet Governance Ecosystem

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, AU Chairperson
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, AU Chairperson

The 8th edition of African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF) 2019 took place in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena exploring the theme “Shared Responsibilities of Stakeholders for a Robust Internet Governance Ecosystem.”

The AfIGF 2019 kicked off on day zero with the first African Youth Internet Governance Forum on its side-lines. The African Youth IGF with the theme “Shaping the next generations of internet users” saw discussions of various issues such as youth engagement in internet governance process, online content and media: fake news and misinformation, a capacity building on data governance and digital identities and emerging technologies.

The African Youth IGF urged youths to, among other things, get involved in shaping policies that affect the growth and democratic usage of the Internet in Africa. It also called on African governments to involve more young people in national policy-making processes adding that there is a need for a concerted multi-stakeholder approach as well as the need to contextualize data protection legislative process. It also pointed out that governments and policymakers must consult and adopt a multi-stakeholder approach to policy development.

Discussing the topic “Internet Freedom: How Much Regulation is Legitimate in the online space?” during one of the parallel sessions on the side of the AfIGF 2019, panellist delved into the issue discussing whether the Internet should be regulated and to what extent. The discussion was against the backdrop of the internet increasingly being used by a wide range of professionals such as journalists, human rights defenders, business tycoons, entrepreneurs etc. to promote and protect their work.

They also looked into the problem of Internet use, which like any medium, comes with emerging threats such as cybercrime and fraud, spread of false news and misinformation, hate speech etc. The presence of these threats have resulted in the call for governments to regulate to internet which also importantly points out the concerns over African government introducing new regulations or applying existing laws to threaten, repress and even imprison dissenting voices, arbitrarily shut down the internet, all in the name of nipping the Internet threats in the bud. The session also emphasised that State and non-state actors have a responsibility to ensure a safe and secure cyber environment for citizens as well as discussing how stakeholder can work together to tackle to threats in the cyberspace while ensuring that the internet is free, open and accessible for everyone.

Stakeholders present at the Forum produced an outcome document containing recommendation on various session of the event such as that African IGF needs to upload the African Declaration on Internet Rights on its website in order to promote it; African countries need to widely promote the positive aspects of the Internet while at the same time educating the population, especially youth on the negative impact and wrong usage of social networks.

Participants also called on Member States to take the necessary action to ratify the AUC Convention on Cybercrime and Personal Data Protection and show their solidarity towards creating global online safety, security and data protection; African countries should address counter-productive tax regimes that inhibit access and use of ICTs and explore ways to appropriately taxing companies (mainly global tech companies) extracting profits generated from domestic users; The need for stakeholders to work together; Establish an e-commerce for the African continent to be able to participate in the digital economy; Open and participatory governance; and Build trust among stakeholders etc.