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Global Justice Now Warns African Countries On Western Firms' Dominance in Selling Digital services Over Local Companies In Poorer Nations.




  • The bigger issue is that more than 100 countries have no privacy laws at all, according to Unctad.

Global Justice Now warns African Countries on western Firms' Dominance in selling digital services

African countries should be nervous about the big technology companies sweeping through their economies, knocking out established businesses and crushing startups before they have had a chance to blossom. A message from the anti-poverty charity Global Justice Now in a report warns of an "e-pocalypse."

The UK-based campaign group Global Justice Now formerly known as the World Development Movement (WDM) is warning of an "e-apocalypse " for African countries because of Western firms' dominance in selling digital services over local companies in poorer nations.

The decision of Kenya to pull out of a new free trade pact with China after it decided the deal was too one-sided last week, is illustrative of the problems African nations face in their relations with large technology firms, a new report says.

Mr Nick Dearden, head of Global Justice Now, says it is essential that developing countries retain their citizens' data within their borders to avoid the core of their economies being directed from abroad. He believes the idea that countries should be passive receivers of Western technology, and borrow heavily on international financial markets to pay for it, means they become prey to the whims of foreign businesses.

The report says that sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is seen as quite exposed after decades of under-investment that has left many countries with little choice than to accept the terms laid down by tech titans.

"Tech companies like to project a modern, progressive image to the world. But under the surface, companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber are pursing an agenda that could hand them dangerous levels of control over our lives and profoundly harm economic development in the global south," the report says.

 Critics, however, say e-commerce liberates small and medium-sized businesses in Africa to export goods they could never previously afford to sell.

The Observer newspaper quotes Ms Susan Aaronson, a digital trade expert at George Washington University, as saying that fighting the adoption of international rules to protect local data privacy is the wrong approach. African countries do have the right to say to tech firms "you need t pay for our data and you need to be transparent about the way you do it."

They also say that the states' attempts to keep data in local servers prevent tech firms from benefiting from economies of scale by housing it in vast hubs across the globe.

"Without (keeping data local) it's so much more difficult for countries to regulate and tax industries, for them to get really any benefits out of an investment with no skills, jobs or technology transfer, or to nurture infant industries. It's the central problem with the way trade deals operate," said Mr Dearden.

The bigger issue is that more than 100 countries have no privacy laws at all, according to Unctad.

At a World Trade Organisation's meeting in Argentina last year, African countries were particularly alarmed at proposals, which in effect, forced them to trade with the tech giants.


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