Social Media’s Influence On Promoting Good Governance In Africa

Even relatively casual observers will have noticed explosive rise in use of social media in Africa. Based of a report in its stated that Africa saw a 50% increase in the number of social media users. Social media has redefined how citizens, governments, and corporations relate to each other, the internet and social media have become the next frontier for the contestation of political power and democratic expression. Lately, both Cameroon and Ethiopia made headlines after shutting down the internet in regions that were experiencing protests against discriminatory government practices.

2019 has hardly taken any shape, yet there has already been a succession of Internet shutdowns across Africa in countries like Uganda, Congo and Zimbabwe. These shutdowns have come as governments endeavor to thin and shutdown ranges of opinions and opportunity of expression. These shutdowns have been influenced when nationals demand justice, better administration conveyance, human rights, and free and fair elections. One can only fear more Internet shutdown as Africa expects 12 more elections this year. This is proving a critical year to test freedom of expression and political tolerance in Africa.

Africa has witnessed extraordinary change in recent past years and social media have been a part of it, although the exact role and influence has not been entirely clear. The primary purposes behind Internet Shutdown, wherever is on the grounds that open Internet offers a stage where regular nationals can unreservedly convey what they see as just as well as a means to monitor the abuse of power and malpractice during elections.

In 2017, Many Kenyan social media users were worried that the government will shut down the internet during its August’s general election. Kenya’s Communications Authority then made an attempt to reassure voters that this is unlikely. However, fears that internet freedoms could be at risk are still not unfounded. The list of African countries that have blocked access to social media during elections and other politically sensitive periods continues to grow.

Countries like Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania, introduced internet legislations that threatens freedom of expression. While in many other countries in Africa, social media users, including journalists, have been prosecuted under existing legislation for content they have shared online. Such actions are often justified in terms of preserving peace and security because social media does offer a potential platform for the dissemination of hate speech and incitement to violence.

Taking for example the role played by incendiary text messages in the violence around Kenya’s 2007 elections, this has often been evoked or cited as a reminder of the potential dangers of unregulated mass communication. The internet provides new ways of sharing information with large numbers of people fast. For example, in the past a joke poking fun at a political leader might have been shared with a few friends. Today with Twitter and Instagram it could reach thousands. Social platforms, such as WhatsApp and blogs, have become major sources of news for many internet users. They sometimes inform or are used for content on what’s reported on other forms media. Asides online trolling and jokes, government violations of electoral procedures or other human rights violations can be and have been exposed online.

Through various forums, social media is a key tool for freedom of expression, which does not only allow people to express themselves freely but it also allows them to hear and see the opinion of others; it provides a room for open and free contribution and deliberation of ideas so that truth could be determined and policies could be drawn on correct information. This is the foundation a true and workable democracy is built on. It’s also essential that the government find means of protecting its citizens without undermining rights and freedom of others.

Social media has played a role in empowering civil society and helps opposition political parties or movements to organise in some of Africa’s most oppressive countries. The internet with the help of social media also gives localised political issues a global audience. This has always been the case during protests when opponents of the regime in the diaspora are able to engage through social media. However, with great power comes great responsibility, with increased online communication also offers new opportunities for government surveillance and censorship. Internet shutdowns and ‘cybercrime’ prosecutions that target critics of leaders are tools with which to close down political space.

It would also be wise to add that no government in Africa has ever shutdown the Internet or condemn social media “abuse” at a time when that government has a lot of support from its citizens. So it is incumbent on the rest of Africans to be proactive and ensure that political leaders and government make decisions and policies that are in tandem with the law, which is designed to uphold and protect people’s freedom and democrat rights.


UNDP — Social Media in Africa

Econonic times —

Democracy In Africa

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