December 01, 2022
The fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is marked by an intensive digitalisation process. Within the process, digital data (physical information converted into digital) and digital technologies restructure how things are done and values are created. Various initiatives and strategies from the very recent AU Data Policy Framework to the Africa Digital Transformation Strategy (ADTS), the Smart Africa Manifesto and the E-Commerce Protocol of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is still under discussion, are intended to galvanize such processes. The regulatory disparity, coupled with the path-dependent asymmetric relationship between actors shapes the degree of leverage they might have over the operation and outcome of such connectivity.
The unrestricted movement of data is a key enabler of the digital economy. However, the development of data protection and data localisation policies is becoming one major area of concern for international trade and investment. Among the mechanisms for protecting individuals is data localisation. This requires that data or a copy thereof (both personal and non-personal) should only be stored and processed locally and should not be exported for processing. The import of this, for instance, is that all data generated within Nigeria must be confined to the boundaries of Nigeria, effectively restricting the flow of data. While localisation of data has significant economic and social benefits, it is also associated with several unintended (negative) consequences, especially from an economic perspective. This is especially true for developing countries like Nigeria that is moving towards greater data localisation with several policies skewed in that direction. This contribution briefly examines the implications of Nigeria’s increasing move towards data localisation on its regional obligations for the promotion of free trade in Africa.
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In Disrupting Africa, Olufunmilayo B. Arewa examines this intersection and shows how it encompasses existing and new zones of contestation based on ethnicity, religion, region, age and other sources of division. Arewa highlights specific collisions between the old and the new, including in the 2020 #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, which involved young people engaging with varied digital era technologies who provoked a violent response from rulers threatened by the prospect of political change.