• The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) has released a new report about network interrruptions in the continent.
  • We went through it and discovered some scary things like the high rate of internet shutdowns over the past five years.
  • We also found a similarity between the leaders of countries with internet issues.

This is one of the scary things we have learnt from a new report by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

Going through the research titled ‘Despots and Disruptions: Five Dimensions of Internet Shutdowns in Africa,’ we discovered some worrisome trends concerning African leaders, elections and the network disruptions.

Here are three important things you should know about internet shutdowns in Africa:

Almost half of the nations in Africa have experienced internet shutdowns

Of the 54 countries in Africa, a total of 22 have experienced internet shutdowns at some point. This is over a short period of five years.

This year alone, there have been network disruptions in six nations in Africa. They are Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Chad, Gabon, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

internet shutdown (African Freedom of Expression Exchange)
internet shutdown (African Freedom of Expression Exchange)
internet shutdown (African Freedom of Expression Exchange)

The remaining 16 African countries that have experienced internet shutdowns are Burundi, Congo (Brazzaville), the Central African Republic (CAR), Cameroon, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Libya, Mauritania, Niger, Togo, Gambia, Mali, Morocco, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

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These countries have one thing in common- longevity in power

According to the report, leaders who stay in power for many years or succeeded their fathers as heads of state tend to order internet shutdowns. 11 of the 14 African presidents who have been in power for over 10 years have all ordered shutdowns, as of January 2019.

77% of the countries with internet shutdowns have been categorised as authoritarian under the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. The remaining nations are regarded as hybrid regimes - high levels of authoritarianism mixed with some democracy.

A lot of African leaders have caused internet shutdowns (twitter/cipesaug)
A lot of African leaders have caused internet shutdowns (twitter/cipesaug)

Based on this kind of regimes, it's no surprise that the countries with network disruptions are usually the lowliest ranked in Africa on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Internet shutdowns usually happen around election periods

The CIPESA report has observed that internet shutdowns tend to occur during the election or when there are public protests against the current government.

This was the case earlier this year when Gabon experienced a total, government-ordered internet shutdown. It happened during the coup against President Ali Bongo. Internet connectivity was restored 28 hours later.

Gabon says coup bid thwarted, as president abroad
Gabon says coup bid thwarted, as president abroad

The same thing happened in Sudan. Following demands for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power for almost 30 years, the government shut down social media access on all mobile phones on December 20, 2018.