10 May 2018

The Internet Society and the African Union Commission has disclosed a new set of Guidelines that emphasizes the importance of privacy protection and accountable usage of personal data for creating greater trust online and for the development of the digital economy in Africa. These guidelines were revealed at the Africa Internet Summit held at Dakar, Senegal.

These Personal Data Protection Guidelines are jointly developed by the Internet Society and the African Union Commission to facilitate the implementation of the African Union’s Convention on Cyber Security and Data Protection (known as the Malabo Convention), adopted in 2014.

The Guidelines suggest several actions to be taken by the governments, policy makers, citizens and other stakeholders at the regional, national, organizational and individual level. The crucial proposal for governments is that they should respect and protect individuals’ rights to privacy online and offline.

“Recent global events have showed us that the lack of appropriate protection for personal data can have a profound impact not just on individuals but also on society at large, to the point of endangering democratic systems. These Guidelines explain how people can take a more active role in the protection of their own data as well as the role that other stakeholders, including governments and legislators, have in ensuring the proper use of data.” Says Dawit Bekele, African Regional Bureau Director for the Internet Society.

The two main principles of the Guidelines advocates all the AU Member States to recognize privacy as a foundation for trust in the digital environment and prioritize the sustainable and responsible use of personal data in the digital economy.

Besides there are suggestions for citizens who are concerned about their data and privacy which includes, using various sources including Internet to inform themselves about the risks and benefits of the digital economy or their online activities. It also advices that the users be well informed about the agreements they make when they sign up for “free” services or use social media platforms that may profit off their data.

Be well aware of one’s own rights and act accordingly. Governments should take proper steps to emancipate the individuals to act when needed by ensuring citizens know how to exercise their rights under privacy and personal data protection laws.

Develop their capabilities to protect their interests online. Supervisory authorities and governments should take measures to ensure that service-providers and product vendors are frank about their business models and product capabilities, so the consumers can decide the right options about the privacy implications of products and services.

“The Malabo Convention is the first step towards developing national legislative frameworks for cybersecurity and data protection in Africa. The guidelines launched today provide a path forward for the member states that have signed the convention, and hopefully encourage more countries to join,” says Moctar Yedaly, Head of Information Society Division, African Union Commission.

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