The Sixth African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF2017) which took place in Sharm El-Sheikh, in Egypt, on December 4 to 6, 2017 has adopted a Charter of the African Internet Governance Forum.
The AfIGF2017 was organized by the African Union in collaboration with the Government of Egypt, which was represented by the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) of Egypt.
Participants at the fourth AfIGF which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from September 6 to 8, 2015 requested for the African Internet Governance Forum Charter. The Charter was then developed online by the AfIGF Charter Working Group established by the African Union.
The draft was circulated among various African Internet Governance stakeholder groups in the second week of September 2017 for a 3-week period, which ended on September 30, 2017. It solicited and collected inputs and comments to help improve the contents of the draft. The revised document was finalized by the Charter Working Group on December 5, 2017.
The AfIGF Charter in keeping with the principles of the global IGF pledged that the AfIGF will be open to Internet stakeholders to join freely, encourage multi-stakeholder participation, maintain language diversity on the Internet and strive to be transparent.
The Charter also laid out the AfIGF objectives which include: to raise greater awareness and support user’s capabilities in the field of Internet governance to ensure good preparation for African stakeholders to contribute and interact at the global level; to ensure that Africa’s interests and voices in Global Internet Governance Forum and at regional and international levels are well formulated, understood and taken into consideration; and to develop coordinated regional action plan and facilitate international exchanges on issues pertinent to Internet governance, among others.
The Charter traces the genesis of the African Internet Governance Charter, the background of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the IGF mandate and its extension, as well as the procedures of the AfIGF.
It explicitly states that the AfIGF is open to all stakeholder groups who would like to participate in its activities and that there are no registration or/and participation fees to the AfIGF. It also states that the Secretariat is not obliged to fund participation of stakeholders.
The preliminary notes of the Charter highlight the various multi-stakeholder groups as well as their respective roles and responsibilities which are to be interpreted in a flexible manner. It clearly states that participation at the AfIGF will be on an individual basis while allowing participants to identify with a stakeholder group.
These preliminary notes also state that the AfIGF Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (AfIGF-MAG) members are volunteers who are selected on personal merit but goes on to emphasise that in selecting members of AfIGF-MAG, every stakeholder group and the five (5) African Sub-Regions should, as much as possible, be represented.
The role of the AfIGF-MAG was explained in the Charter to be assisting the African Union Commission in organizing the annual AfIGF meetings and to prepare the relevant content for the meeting.
The AfIGF Charter further details the linkage between the AfIGF and the sub-regional IGFs as based on strong and continuous relationships between the AfIGF Secretariat and members of the AfIGF-MAG who are at the same time members of their respective sub-regional IGFs.
Moving on from this, the Charter covers the background of the African Internet Governance Forum which arose from the significant contribution of the African Internet community to the WSIS process and the implementation of its outputs especially with regards to Internet governance including the hosting of the two global IGFs in Egypt and Kenya in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
The initiative of establishing the African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF) was taken in 2011 after which five sub-regional IGF initiatives were formed which are currently still ongoing in Africa. The Charter lists the five ongoing sub-regional IGF initiatives in Africa: West Africa Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF), the East Africa Internet Governance Forum (EAIGF), Forum de Gouvernance de l’Internet en Afrique Centrale (FGI-CA), the Southern Africa Internet Governance Forum (SAIGF) and the North African Internet Governance Forum (NAIGF).
It also explains that in line with the United Nations General Assembly 2O15 decision, the African IGF activities are extended for a ten years period ending in 2026.
The Charter spells out the AfIGF process including its annual meeting, the nominating committee, the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group and the Secretariat; spelling out their composition, mandates, roles and other relevant information.
In its concluding page, the Charter states that the African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in accordance with the Joint AUC and ECA Communiqué will provide the core budget to fund AfIGF activities. It however states that additional financial and in-kind contributions will be mobilized from development partners who show interests in supporting the success and sustainability of annual AfIGF events.
The Charter includes the creation and management of an AfIGF Support Fund by its Secretariat sourced from voluntary contributions of African and international organizations; contributions from individuals and businesses; and contributions from the AfIGF meetings host countries.
It states the process for amendments and ends by stating under the Transitional Measures section that the Working Group composed of Mary Uduma from Nigeria as the Chairperson; Makane Faye, Senegal representing the African IGF Secretariat; Olusegun H. Olugbile, Nigeria; Ridha Guellouz, Tunisia; Towela Nyirenda-Jere, South Africa (NEPAD Agency); and Wisdom Donkor, Ghana as members, will support the Secretariat activities until the AfIGF MAG is established.