Protecting the right to privacy in Africa in the digital age

The right to privacy, as guaranteed in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other provisions – including Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 16 of the Convention in the Rights of the Child, and Article 14 of the Convention on the Protection of Migrants – is a core tenet of democratic societies. Its inclusion in such a variety of provisions demonstrates its significance in relation to the protection of a broad array of other fundamental human rights. Failure to protect this right has a knock-on effect on citizens’ abilities to exercise other rights, thus undermining many of the principles upon which democracy is based. Although several African States have taken steps toward ensuring that individuals’ right to privacy is protected, both online and offline, a number of challenges must still be addressed before adequate protection is afforded. This paper will provide an overview of the importance of protecting the right to privacy, before addressing why it is necessary for African States to adopt and enforce effective privacy protection policies, and the specific challenges that must be resolved in order for effective policies to be developed and implemented. Finally, it will propose a number of ‘next steps’ towards ensuring the adequate protection of this right.

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