AfricTivistes held its third Summit in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) on 11, 12 and 13 November 2021 under the theme "Promoting the development and democratic governance of the Internet in Africa".
This edition provided a clear picture of the maturity of the digital ecosystem in the continent and enabled discussions on possible future scenarios and new African perspectives on the information society and cyberspace. There was also a lot of discussion on systemic and institutional mechanisms of internet governance.
22 countries were represented. 20 institutions and partners graced the event with their presence. There were 120 participants at the opening ceremony and 111 participants at the opening panels. 30 experts and resource persons also came to the event.
Web activists, change agents, members of social movements, researchers and innovators, partners, bloggers, journalists and netizens from across the continent tackled the following themes
- Digital skills and online communities
- Governments as a hindrance to internet development in Africa
- Impacts of internet shutdowns on civic engagement and freedom of expression
- What role can civil society play in internet governance in Africa ?
- Using organized civil society networks to promote democracy in Africa
The summit is organised every two years and offers a platform to discuss the continent's challenges in relation to democracy and good governance, as well as the place and impact of digital technology on democratic processes, governance and citizen awareness.
For this third edition, which was live-streamed on all the organisation's platforms, many prominent figures took part in the meeting, including:
- Mr. Luther YAMEOGO, Senior Advocacy Officer, Civil Society and Community Engagement Division, Representative of the President of the African Development Bank;
- Mr. Stéphane KONAN, Cybersecurity expert ;
- Mr. Marthe COULIBALY, Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders;
- Ms. Nadège Traoré GOUE, Head of the Internet Governance Department, Ministry of Digital Economy, (MENUTI) Côte d'Ivoire;
- Ms Uyoyo EDOSIO, Senior ICT and Innovation Specialist, African Development Bank (ADB);
- Ms Mireille Houndji BOTE, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Côte D'Ivoire;
- Ms. Gertrude Kone DOUYERE, Executive Director of the National Union of Telecommunications Companies (UNITEL) Côte d'Ivoire,
- M. Lassina Serme, Réseau des Professionnels de la Presse en Ligne de Côte d'Ivoire REPPRELCI;
- Ms. Nnena NWAKANMA, Internet Society, World Web Foundation (Nigeria- Côte d'Ivoire);
- M. Samir ABDELKRIM, Entrepreneur, author ʺ The start up Lions ʺ Founder of startup BRICS, Tech Reporter in for Le Point Afrique,
- Adama Sow, expert and consultant in digital development, personal data commission (Senegal);
- Ibrahima SOW Kandji, Representative of the Telecommunications and Posts Regulatory Authority (ARTP), Senegal.
AfricTivistes' welcome remarks
During his welcome remarks, the President of AfricTivistes spoke about the current COVID-19 pandemic and the role that digital technology is playing in the fight against this virus and its socio-economic repercussions in Africa. "My heart goes out to all those lives lost to Covid-19 in 2020. But without the internet and smartphones, Africa would also have experienced 2020 in a different way. Through mobilisation and volunteering, hundreds of young Africans have contributed to the COVID19 response through social initiatives and citizen projects. This is evidence that the digital and internet have served as a catalyst to galvanise the continent," said President Cheikh Fall.
This third AfricTivistes Summit was also an opportunity for Cheikh Fall to advocate for a better Africa that will not be left out of the digital revolution. "We inherited this continent from our parents and grandparents but we also borrowed it from our sons and grandsons. We have a responsibility to sustain it and make it better when passing it on to our grandchildren… We entrust the construction and equipment of our data centres to foreign powers… Our continent is being divided up again before our helpless eyes. We are creating a new dependency.”
Before announcing that some major recommendations will come out of the Abidjan Declaration, Fall urged States to beware of the risks linked to the loss of digital sovereignty and the looming cyber threats. According to Cheikh Fall, "African presidents must stop considering pro-democracy activists as political opponents."
AfDB opening remarks
The Senior Advocacy Officer, Civil Society and Community Engagement Division of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Luther YAMEOGO, delivered the opening remarks at the third edition of the AfricTivistes Summit. He indicated the AfDB Group's readiness to further support African civil society in their work. "The empowerment of civil society is fundamental to the transformation of the continent. This Summit will serve as a platform to bring together the AfDB and African digital civil society. The AfDB wants to better involve citizens in its actions. And collaboration with AfricTivistes, which has a strong network of 200 members across the continent, is fundamental," he said.
Speaking further, Mr. Yameogo said: " Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group has made partnerships with civil society a priority. There is still an information gap between citizens, communities and grassroots populations on the AfDB's missions and achievements. This is why we want to strengthen and institutionalise our partnership with AfricTivistes. The African Development Bank Group contributes to the development of the continent and wants to better involve citizens, and convey this through the know-how of AfricTivistes. This will be accomplished with the involvement of the Organisation in the AfDB's Information and Communication Technology strategy.”
In conclusion, Luther Yaméogo said that "the Africa we want for ourselves and for future generations deserves the renewed commitment of all. And the AfDB will play its part.”
Statement by Stéphane Konan
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr Stéphane Konan, an expert in cyber security, said that today we live in a world where the individual has regained power. "A connected individual can do something that has a global impact," he explained. Thus, he argued that connectivity is a major opportunity for African countries and that they will have to reinvent or invent themselves.
Touching on digital sovereignty, he said that most cybercrime is instantaneous and transnational. Therefore, he added, a State's capacity to act in the digital space is a major stake for which we will have to be able to reinvent ourselves if we have not already done so.
Highlights of the event
The BRICS startup founder, Mr. Samir AbdelKrim, presented the opening keynote address using the example of an African innovation from Kenya: the open source software USHAHIDI. According to him, "at the height of the Covid-19, it was this Kenyan crowdsourcing software for social mapping, which allowed the Spanish hospital service not to collapse".
The technique developed by Ushahidi saved Spain from a health disaster. According to Samir AbdelKrim, "this incredible journey shows that when we talk about the growth of start-ups, the first driver is the commitment of the community. And here it is Africa that has helped Europe. This fact must be highlighted and known by all. This means that Europe and Africa must innovate together and not separately.
According to Samir AbdelKrim, it is not with drones and balloons that we will succeed in connecting Africa. " AfricTivistes and other CSOs on the continent have a command of the terrain, a key strength that GAFAM do not have. Therefore, they should be proud of themselves and remain committed to solving the problems of the African continent," he said.
-High Level Panel
Mr. Gilles Yabi, director of the West African citizen think tank Wathi, moderated the High Level Panel of the AfricTivistes Summit which focused on the Effective integration of ICTs into development policies in Africa.
Ms. Nnenna Nwakanma, Internet Society, World Web Foundation moderated the round table themed "Role and protection of bloggers and journalists in the online information ecosystem".
Besides the High Level Panel and the round table, the Third AfricTivistes Summit featured a wealth of exchanges and recommendations thanks to:
Panel 1: "Internet Governance and the Digital Governance of African States." The moderator was Adama Sow, expert and consultant in digital development at the Personal Data Commission (Senegal).
Panel 2: "African civil society: key actor in internet governance" Luther Yameogo, Senior Advocacy Officer, Civil Society and Community Engagement Division at the AFDB as facilitator.
Panel 3: “ICT4DEV: Internet development in Africa: Embracing digital transformation" with digital entrepreneur and expert Mohamed Diaby as moderator
Workshop 1: The role and complementarity of bloggers and journalists in the fight against disinformation.
Workshop 2: The legal protection of online information actors.
Group work 1: Internet freedom and governance: African administrations put to the test
Group work 2: Media and development
This group work was an exchange between the managers of Canal France International (CFI) and the public. Participants shared the realities they face in their countries in the implementation of the activities they work on with CFI.
- Pre-launch of the Charter Africa Project: Strengthening democratic governance systems in African countries
The Charter Africa Project (CPA) aims to support the engagement of pan-African civil society initiatives with the African Governance Architecture to promote and disseminate the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).
This project is led by a consortium of six organizations: AfricTivistes, the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), the Democracy Works Foundation (DWF), Code for Africa and Gorée Institute.
The project activities presented include:
- The establishment of a grant mechanism to encourage the use of Civic Tech to promote democratic governance in Africa;
- The establishment of a cooperation framework between the European Union and African civil society;
- A multi-stakeholder online consultation via a virtual evidence-gathering platform to encourage youth and grassroots activists in the eleven target countries of the project to engage in thematic discussions of interest;
- A distance learning programme (MOOC) will be developed for civil society actors, media actors and professionals, youth etc. to provide pedagogical and didactic content on elections, democracy and governance in Africa.
-Closing Keynote address
"On shrinking civic space in Africa." This was the theme of the closing Keynote address presented by Pr David Ekoué Dosseh, co-initiator of the " Universités sociales " launched in 2016 to revive Togolese civil society organisations.
In his presentation, Prof. Dosseh stressed that civic space is a physical and virtual legal environment where people exercise their rights of association and assembly. According to him, the electoral stakes are opportunities for the incumbent heads of State to kill any dissent and to restrict freedom of expression.
"3 billion people are victims of the pandemic of political dictatorship in the world because the state apparatus limits them to a set path, resisting leads to being crushed," he explained. He stressed that even though the world has changed today, the stakes remain the same for Africa.
"Unfortunately, African leaders continue to behave like administrative agents of the West. We have to rely on our strengths to solve this problem. There is no such thing as flexible democracy. Constitutional amendments have become an engineering of our leaders," he says.
Professor Dosseh thus asserted that justice is one of the important powers in the restriction of democracy. He therefore called on civil society to come together as an organisational force to make convergent proposals.
Declaration of Abidjan
At the end of the proceedings of the Third AfricTivistes Summit, the Declaration of Abidjan for a democratic governance of the Internet in Africa was read out. It contains all the commitments made for a democratic governance of the Internet guaranteeing the respect of the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, and allowing the accountability of public authorities in Africa.
-Presentation of the Anna Gueye Prizes and the AfricTivistes Civic Action Prize
The highlight of the Third Summit was the closing dinner where the Anna Gueye "Media" and "Citizen Engagement" Prizes, the AfricTivistes Civic Action Prize were presented.
Peter Nkanga, a Nigerian journalist, and Fatouma Harber, a Malian blogger and teacher, were respectively awarded the Anna Gueye Prize. As for the AfricTivistes Civic Action Prize , it was awarded to Djamila Aboubacar Sahabi from Niger after a vote by the public and the jury.
The Third AfricTivistes Summit was widely covered by the Ivorian and international media on all platforms (Print, Online, Radio and Television). Below, you will find a non-exhaustive list of media productions on the Summit:
Medi1TV; Talk Afrique: Afrique et internet: innovation numérique et cyber souveraineté
L’AS via Seneplus: LES SCENARII DES FUTURS POSSIBLES SCRUTES DE FOND EN COMBLE
Photos of the Third AfricTivistes Summit Photo: Erick Ahounou