Briefing Paper

Digital Dictatorship versus Digital Democracy in Africa

Less than a decade ago the Arab Spring was hailed as a game changer for global politics.
Enhanced political debate via social media, a wider diversity of opinions and closer access
to governments were meant to enhance social consensus and improve governance. Digital
democracy was on the rise, it seemed. Fast forward a few years – in the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump – and against a backdrop of increasing polarisation, Internet shutdowns and heightened censorship, ‘digital dictatorship’ has become the new buzzword. The full range of effects of this development has yet to be fully understood or digested in Africa, where the concept of digital dictatorship is still in its relative infancy. However, how these issues are traversed is set to have huge implications for African democracy and governance, consequently meriting further analysis and reflection.