Digitalisation and democracy: Is Africa’s governance charter fit for the digital era?
Ennatu Domingo and Lidet Tadesse Shiferaw analyse the links between digital transformation, political activism and governance and argue that Africa’s governance charter, the ACDEG, should be adapted to keep up with the rapid adoption of digital technologies and their impacts on democratic processes.
Policy instruments and frameworks have not kept up with the rapid adoption of digital technologies and their impacts on democratic processes.
Digital technologies have had a huge impact on governance around the globe. While increasing access to communication technologies has made it easier for citizens to mobilise politically, it also presents security risks. Social media platforms, for instance, are increasingly used to amplify and disseminate hate speech and incite violence. Digital technologies have also enabled some governments to expand their surveillance of political opponents, journalists and activists. Yet, policy instruments and frameworks have not kept up with the rapid adoption of digital technologies and their impacts on democratic processes. This is also the case for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), which was adopted in 2007 to improve the quality of democracy and electoral processes across Africa and promote human rights and governance.
In this paper, we zoom in on the ACDEG and analyse the interlinkages between digital transformation, political activism and governance. We argue that the ACDEG should be adapted to respond to new challenges such as disinformation, hate speech and the digital divide. Digital technologies offer opportunities to further strengthen the provisions of the ACDEG. Furthermore, given the great potential of digital technologies to both limit and promote democratic processes, we recommend that the ACDEG includes stipulations on the diverse uses of digital technologies by state and non-state actors, particularly during electoral processes.
This paper was produced for the Charter Project Africa.