First Advanced Human Rights Course on Data Protection highlights the relationship between human rights protection and data protection in Africa

Posted on October 10, 2022

The Expression, Information and Digital Rights (EIDR) Unit of the Centre for Human Rights (Centre), University of Pretoria, supported by Google, hosted the first Advanced Human Rights Course on Data Protection in Africa (Course). The Course was held from 19 to 23 September 2022.

The intensive five-day Course which focused on the various aspects of human rights and data protection in Africa was held online. It was made up of 19 sessions which focused on various themes including clarification of terms and concepts in data protection in Africa; overview of applicable instruments on data protection; aspects of a national data protection legislation; data protection during public emergencies; digital IDs; disability rights; socio-economic rights and social protection; sexual minority rights; protection of personal information of children; international human rights mechanisms; emerging technologies; data protection agencies; national human rights institutions; regulation and the future of data protection in Africa.

The Course was facilitated by 18 leading experts on human rights and data protection in Africa from nine countries including researchers from the Centre (Dr Ayodele Sogunro, Ms Hlengiwe Dube, and Mr Paul Juma), academics (Professor Julia Sloth-Nielsen, University of the Western Cape, South Africa & Chair, Children’s Rights in the Developing World, University of Leiden, Netherlands; Dr Lukman Abdulrauf, Senior Lecturer, University of Ilorin, Nigeria), data protection practitioners, (Avani Singh, Digital Rights Specialist, Webber Wentzel, South Africa; Grace Mutung’u & Nora Mbagathi, Open Society Foundations, Kenya; Lina Jasmontaite, Legal Researcher, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium; Dr Patricia Boshe, Data Protection Trainer, University of Passau, Germany; Mercy Kingo’ri, Lead Policy Analyst, Future of Privacy Forum; and Gabrielle Razzano, Executive Director, Open Up, South Africa).

Other facilitators include (Mustafa Yousif, Co-Director, Namati Citizenship Programme, Kenya; Chenai Chair, Senior Program Officer, Mozilla; Grant Masterson, Head of Programme, Governance, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Development in Africa (EISA), South Africa; James Nkuubi, Human Rights and Peace Centre, School of Law, Makerere University, Uganda; Commissioner Drudeisha Mahdub, Data Protection Commissioner, Mauritius; and Dr Wairagala Wakabi, Executive Director, Collaboration for International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Uganda).

More than 71 participants were drawn from various backgrounds including academia, private sector, judiciary, government institutions, civil society and others to attend the Course. These participants, which included legal practitioners, postgraduate students, government officials, researchers and civil society actors noted that the course opened their eyes to some of the ‘hidden’ aspects of data protection law and practice in Africa and as a result, they are more aware of the broad and ever-evolving nature of data, its use and protection within the African context. Sharing their feedback on the Course, some of the participants noted that the course should definitely continue mainly because they found all of its aspects engaging and it addresses most of the often overlooked areas of data protection that are closely related to and necessary for human rights protection in Africa.

The opening address for the course was made by Mr Dennis Antwi (Program Manager, Advanced Human Rights Courses) and Dr Tomiwa Ilori (Postdoctoral Researcher/Project Coordinator, Expression, Information and Digital Rights (EIDR)), from the Centre for Human Rights.

During the Course, facilitators and participants deliberated on various issues one of which is how data protection is not only a sui-generis area of practice but also intersects with aspects of social, economic and political development in Africa.

In particular, the last session presented by Dr Wairagala Wakabi with the title: ‘Future of Data Protection in Africa: Taking stock and next steps’ provided a snapshot of some of the emerging issues on data protection in the region and how the region can be well-positioned to tackle these issues. According to Dr Wakabi, these issues which include data localisation, regulation of biometric data, financial technology and others will require strong regional policy harmonisation, independent regulators, clear complaint mechanisms and many other long-lasting and thorough initiatives. This presentation provided food for thought for both participants and facilitators on how the journey towards an effective data protection landscape in Africa is long but not impossible.

The week-long Course ended with closing remarks by the Director of the Centre, Professor Frans Viljoen. In his remarks, he thanked the facilitators and participants for making time to attend the course and expressed his gratitude to Google on behalf of the Centre for providing support for the Course.  

The Course concluded with an understanding that data protection is an ever-evolving subject which requires constant engagements with broad aspects of the society and stakeholders such as vulnerable groups, civil society, private sector, academia, research and development institutions and others. Therefore, African states who are making efforts towards data protection need to consider a more holistic approach that accommodates these broad aspects and stakeholders. For example, the increase in data protection laws should come with adequate provisions for effective and independent data protection agencies because a law is only as good as its implementation. One of the many ways this can be realised is by increasing awareness on the various aspects of data protection for stakeholders in order to drive a human-centred and people-driven data protection landscape in Africa.

For more information, please contact:

Dennis Antwi
Project Manager: Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC)
Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4197
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
[email protected]
Dr Tomiwa Ilori (he/him)
Postdoctoral Fellow & Project Coordinator, Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit
Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4397
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
[email protected]
- Author Centre for Human Rights

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