Invitation: Privacy and data protection in Africa: Challenges and prospects

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a conference on privacy and data protection in Africa from 12 to 15 October 2020. The conference is organised by the Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit in collaboration with the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition (AfDec Coalition). The conference will be of interest to academics, students, policymakers and practitioners working in the areas of privacy, data protection, big data, information technology, and human rights law in Africa and others interested in understanding of the state of privacy and data protection, particularly within the African context. The conference is aimed at improving privacy and data protection scholarship in Africa.

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Date: 12 – 15 October 2020  Webinar (Zoom)

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Purpose of the Webinar

The momentum on data protection and privacy is increasing worldwide due to data and privacy breaches that have been witnessed. In Africa, the enhanced interest is ushering in a wave of data protection legislation although most countries still do not have such kind of legislation. However, despite this interest and focus on data protection, there are concerns around the use and protection of personal information and these concerns have been eliciting a lot of responses from various sectors. Africa is lagging far behind other continents in addressing these privacy and data protection concerns. In Europe, the data protection regime has evolved and reformed since the 1970s, culminating into the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into effect in May 2018. This landmark development has significant changes to the scope of data protection across the globe. 

The right to privacy is guaranteed by human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In the European Union (EU), it is enshrined in article 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. At the African Union (AU) level, unlike the aforementioned human rights instruments, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights does not have a provision for the right to privacy. In 2019, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression ad Access to Information in Africa which contains on the right to privacy and data protection in Africa. Prior to that, the AU adopted a Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection in 2014 but has not received the required 15 ratifications for it to come into force. Only Mauritius, Namibia, Guinea, Senegal, Ghana and recently, Rwanda have ratified it. At the sub-regional level, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has a Model Law on Data Protection (2013), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has a Personal Data Protection Act while the East African Community (EAC) adopted the Framework for Cyber Laws in 2008. As a form of response to the challenges posed to the right to privacy in the digital age, the United Nation’s Human Rights Council established the mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in 2015. 

At the national level in Africa, although most constitutions provide for the right to privacy, less than half of the continent has substantive and comprehensive laws on data protection while others have data protection frameworks infused in their different legislations. There is also a significant proportion of countries without data protection frameworks but with inadequate safeguards and sometimes with overly broad exemptions. Most African countries are grappling with enacting specific and appropriate legislation on the regulation of data collection, control and processing of personal data. Implementation of existing frameworks and adopted lows is worrisome. These inadequacies are also in the context unending technology advancements which themselves creates new vulnerabilities for privacy and data protection. Technology advancements, the adoption of data protection frameworks by the AU and EU creates agency for alignment and implementation and national level. It is also an opportunity to interrogate the normative standards that are available on the continent and propose enhancements. 

This project is situated in the context of the inadequacies in the data protection and privacy discourse in Africa, particularly in the scholarly and academic fields. In one of his articles, Makulilo, one of the leading scholars of data protection in Africa, explored the major literature on privacy and data protection in Africa and concluded that currently, this literature is underdeveloped, with many publications focusing on a specific jurisdiction and limited comparative literature except comparisons between an African jurisdiction and European or American jurisdictions.

Despite Africa’s enhanced interest in the data protection subject, the literature on this topic in Africa is still deficient, patchy, and growing at a very slow pace. In terms of augmenting the literature and knowledge on privacy and data protection in Africa, Makulilo proposed that there has to be a deliberate effort focused on this topic with initiatives such as networking, training, researches, platforms for discussions at country/sub-regional and regional levels. Thus, in light of the current situation regarding the privacy and data protection in Africa and the gaps in scholarship, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria intends to contribute to the work on privacy and data protection in Africa through a conference and a book. 


  1. To enhance the data protection and privacy scholarship in Africa through evidence-based analyses of specific data privacy issues across the continent and how they impact on the realisation of human rights; 
  2. To develop an understanding of the legal and policy framework on privacy and data protection within the African context; and 
  3. To establish a platform for debate and discussion on data protection and privacy in Africa. 
  4. To develop a network of privacy and data protection scholars in Africa 
  5. To enable civil society organizations and other selected African human rights actors are to advocate for human-rights-based data protection legislation and policies.


  • The normative and regulatory architecture 
  • Privacy and national security
  • Privacy and vulnerable groups
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data privacy
  • COVID-19
  • The right to privacy and freedom of expression 
  • Data protection and advocacy
  • Cloud computing and data protection
For more information, please contact: 

Hlengiwe Dube

Manager: Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4199

Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743


Tomiwa Ilori

HRDA Alumni Coordinator / Researcher: Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4397

Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743