A manifesto for African digital sovereignty

Arthur Gwagwa in Global Policy

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In the world of AI regulation, power is not evenly distributed. Countries like China and the United States have an almost hegemonic position, while entire continents lag behind. At Global Policy, PhD candidate Arthur Gwagwa writes about Africa’s position in the world of AI.

Disadvantaged position for Africa

China holds a large part of Africa’s data infrastructure and the United States also has enormous power to control public life in other countries from a distance. Partly because of their pursuit of global dominance in cyberspace, Africa is at a disadvantage, Gwagwa argues.

Gwagwa would like to see Africa take control in its quest for digital sovereignty. In doing so, however, the continent’s countries encounter complications. Although there are all kinds of developments going on at national levels, partly due to a weak market position and political fragmentation, it is difficult for Africans to influence global AI regulations, he observes. This leaves Africa susceptible to domination by the powers that could shape the rules.

Five possible solutions

Chances are that (future) technology and AI will not meet the needs of a large number of people on this globe, Gwagwa argues. He therefore thinks there is an urgent need to start taking African perspectives and views on digital infrastructure and AI into account.

To avoid future problems, Gwagwa makes five suggestions. Engage in digital constitutionalism, he says. Existing collaborations should be strengthened, appropriate and contextually relevant policies created, and inclusive governance promoted. He also advocates to utilise a relational concept of self-determination and non-domination for African peoples.