Connect with us


The Five-Point Digital Rights Agenda for Nigeria’s New Government



Kindly share this post

By Adeboye Adegoke, Senior Manager, Grants and Programs Strategy at Paradigm Initiative.

As a new government takes over the reins of power in Nigeria, it will be useful to set a digital rights agenda for the new administration. This agenda is an aggregation of ideas, recommendations and output of many engagements and consultations on digital rights in the past years. First, let me define digital rights to lay a basis for the article.

If I was going to define digital rights a few years ago, I’d define it as the contextual application of the rights guaranteed by International, regional and national human rights instruments, in the use of existing, emerging and future digital technologies, including the internet.

In today’s reality, this definition would rather be naive and would be a total misrepresentation of the reality of the majority of the world’s population where access to the internet, affordability of devices, digital gender-divide, cost of data etc are still key and pending issues affecting the realisation of fundamental rights. One of the key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic was the need for countries to prioritise digital inclusion so no one is left behind in the digital evolution and the attending gains of the digital economy.

In its judgment on the twitter ban in Nigeria, the ECOWAS court held that digital platforms are vehicles and enablers of constitutionally guaranteed rights. Affordable and reliable internet access is essential for individuals to exercise their digital rights effectively. Therefore, digital rights is defined for this purpose as the right and ability of citizens to access digital technologies towards the enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedom.

With this definition, I have laid the basis for the following agenda;

1. Pursue Universal Access as a State Policy: The outgoing government claimed it achieved a 100% broadband access on the back of Elon Musk’s Star Link’s entry into the Nigerian market. This is at best, a mere political statement that anyone who’s interested in real change should take with a pinch of salt. This techpoint article fairly addressed the matter. In summary, access that’s available and affordable to a limited economic class can not be the basis to claim 100% access.

Also, according to the Broadband Commission, meaningful universal connectivity means that anyone, anywhere, regardless of geographic location, socio-economic status, race, gender, or any other differentiating demographic, has access to affordable services and devices to connect to reliable and safe internet. The previous administration made marginal progress in this regard but its claim of 100% broadband access was bogus.

To achieve the objective of universal access, the new administration must revisit the barriers that have been previously identified. These are affordability, web literacy and a lack of access to devices such as smartphones and computers; There must be a deliberate approach to address these issues. Also, emerging issues such as multiple digital taxation must be halted to avoid killing the goose that’s laying the golden egg and further alienating more people from digital access.

The lingering problem of the right of way which has been a barrier to broadband penetration in Nigeria must be addressed. As a starting point, the new administration must revisit the pending commitment made during the COVID-19 pandemic and work with regional governments (states and local governments) to ensure the barrier is totally removed.

In a nutshell, the state must be deliberate about its pursuit of universal access as a state policy, beyond clutching to a chance occurrence of a major player’s entry into the Nigerian market.The new government can bridge the digital divide by promoting universal access to affordable and reliable internet connectivity. This can involve investing in infrastructure development and implementing policies that promote digital literacy and skills training. Special attention should be given to marginalised and under-served communities to ensure equal access and opportunities.

2. Prioritise Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement: The previous government threw the phrase ‘stakeholder engagement’ around a lot. Any keen observer of the ecosystem however knew that the engagements were barely respected and it did appear that they were employed to tick the boxes against what should have been a deliberate effort to benefit from the diversity of expertise that exist in and outside of government. For example, it conspicuously omitted civil society or other public interest representation in the board of the data protection institution proposed in its data protection bill.

Also, the feedback it received on the proposed amendment to the NITDA bill fell on deaf ears. It went as far as tampering with the report of the public hearing held by the Senate Committee on ICT and Cybersecurity on the bill, to give a false impression that the bill enjoyed stakeholder buy-in. The incoming administration should engage in meaningful consultations with academia, technology companies, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to develop and implement policies related to digital rights.

Collaborative efforts can help identify and address emerging issues, as well as ensure that the government’s actions align with the needs and aspirations of Nigerian citizens. The approach to digital governance by the previous administration failed to appreciate the significance and importance of a human-centric approach to digital regulation. Digital technologies offer economic, social, and political opportunities. However, without robust approaches to national policies and regulations, technology can have negative impacts and can worsen the very issues they seek to improve.

As clearly articulated in a report on putting people at the Centre of Digital Policy by the Africa-Europe Cooperation and Digital Transformation, “The creation process for policies, regulations, and bills to protect against these risks lead to successful outcomes when all stakeholders – especially citizens and their representatives – are consulted in the policymaking process.” This approach helps policymakers to gain a better sense of long-term issues related to technology, not only those issues that are important to the government at the moment or to the more established stakeholders and their business interests. To put it succinctly, don’t just seek stakeholders input, be conscious about the process, ensure broad participation and allow their input to count.

3. Enact and Review Relevant Legislation: This government is privileged to inherit some bills and laws from previous administrations that it can quickly work on to positively alter the regulatory framework for digital rights protection in Nigeria.

• The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill which the Buhari administration initially rejected in 2019 went through a new cycle of stakeholder engagement between 2019 – 2023. This will be a low hanging fruit for the new government. It can immediately review this draft bill and forward to the National Assembly for the required legislative process towards assent by the President.

• Data Protection Bill. This bill suffered from a lack of inclusion from a civil society perspective and it’d be great to see the new government address this and other pending concerns before enacting the bill into law.

• Cybercrimes Act 2015. Unlike the previous two, this is already a law in Nigeria. It is not as though it was a digital rights-oriented law. From its name, the Cybercrimes Act clearly focuses on addressing cyber criminality. However, this law has a notorious provision in section 24 which has been the most potent tool and basis for the violation of digital rights, especially freedom of expression online since its enactment.

The section due to its vague provision has been used to target dissent, journalists and citizens for legitimate expressions that the powerful feel uncomfortable about. There is a pending ECOWAS court judgment ordering the Nigerian government to amend this provision. Thankfully, the Federal Ministry of Justice is currently leading a process to review the bill in order to amend the law. This government can take ownership of this process to ensure that section 24 of the bill is repealed.

• Regulation of surveillance to ensure responsible and right-respecting use of surveillance technologies is next. For the longest time, successful administration denied its investment in surveillance technologies, sometimes ignoring freedom of information requests on the subject. Nigeria has gone past the days of living in denial to a time when we must ensure that the uses and application of surveillance technologies are responsible. In 2019, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) issued the Lawful Interception of Communication Regulations.

The regulation requires that there must be court warrants for interception to happen but failed to create an effective system of accountability around these processes. The incoming administration should ensure an effective accountability model for surveillance practices in Nigeria through judicial and public accountability. This is to ensure that the right to privacy as guaranteed for every Nigerian by the Constitution is preserved and to ensure that law enforcement agencies respect the rule of law in the discharge of their duties. The current model defers to the Attorney General of the Federation, a partisan member of the cabinet.

The Freedom Online Coalition recently published a useful resource that may prove useful. The Guiding Principles on Government Use of Surveillance Technologies aims to prevent or mitigate the use of Internet controls to suppress human rights and fundamental freedoms and unjustly limit access to information, the pairing of advanced video surveillance with artificial intelligence (AI)-driven tools to persistently identify and monitor people without an appropriate legal basis, and other discriminatory uses targeted at perceived government opponents as a means to enforce social and political control.

• The Code of Practice For Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries is another example of regulatory effort without stakeholder buy-in. The challenge with this code is its attempt to regulate digital platforms in an overly simplistic manner. This comes with risk to digital rights of Nigerians. Regulating digital platforms is a tough task and even the most developed nations are still grappling with figuring things out. The European Union recently passed the Digital Services Act (DSA) which includes rules for online intermediary services, highlighting the responsibilities of users, platforms, and public authorities.

The Act places citizens at the centre and it better protects consumers and their fundamental rights online, establishing a powerful transparency and a clear accountability framework for online platforms. Also the Act ensures for citizens, a better protection of fundamental rights, gives them more choices, lower prices and ensures they are less exposed to illegal content. The Act also creates legal certainty, harmonisation of rules for providers of digital services.

The Act doesn’t come into force until February 2024 despite the richness of expertise and stakeholder consultations that went into drafting and enacting it. Meanwhile the Code of Practice was conceived, drafted and adopted in a very limited context, limited consultation and timeframe. Nigeria can draw inspiration from the DSA. I wouldn’t recommend a copy and paste approach but I strongly recommend that the new administration undertake a study of this legislation and explore its applicability to the Nigerian context. Beside the DSA, the office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology is leading on a global digital compact to ‘outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all.’

This will establish agreed principles for digital governance that support human rights, social justice and sustainable development and that can form the basis of a longer-term framework for accountable and inclusive digital governance.This process is rich and benefitting from quality stakeholder inputs, with multiple multilateral organisations, leading nations in the world, academics, civil society and others making meaningful contribution to the process. These examples are a good guide and can help the thinking of the new government in approaching digital governance in Nigeria.

4. Institutional Capacity Building: The government should invest in building the capacity of relevant institutions responsible for enforcing digital rights such as the National Human Rights Commission and the Judiciary. They must be empowered to address digital rights issues. Adequate resources, training programs, and technical expertise should be provided to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of digital rights by the commission.

5. Join the Freedom Online Coalition. The Freedom Online Coalition is a group of countries deeply committed to the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The group believes that the human rights that people have offline must also be protected online. It also commits to working together, and with all others who share these views, to support Internet freedom and protect human rights online worldwide. In the past administration, Nigeria was invited to join the coalition by the government of Finland, one of the previous chairs of the coalition, but the Buhari Administration refused. It must be said that many would argue that Nigeria does not possess the value to be a worthy member of such a coalition. However, the perceived value of Nigeria is also directly linked to the kind of standard it holds itself accountable to. My argument for proposing that Nigeria joins this coalition is premised on this point. The coalition is strategic and useful for peer learning and provides access to an unbelievable amount of resources on digital rights protection.

By adopting these measures, the new government in Nigeria can play a crucial role in promoting and protecting digital rights, thereby enabling its citizens to enjoy the benefits of the digital age while upholding fundamental human rights.

Kindly share this post

Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd


Why Debt Financing is so Important for the African Business Market



Kindly share this post

By Nathaniel Nyika, Chief Investment Officer at Norsad Capital

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the beating heart of Africa’s economies. According to the World Economic Forum, as engines of growth, SMEs are responsible for around 80% of the continent’s employment, ultimately helping to reduce poverty and income inequality, enabling the establishment of a new middle class and driving demand for new goods and services.

That’s why creating an enabling environment for SMEs to access finance will enhance their ability to not only contribute to Africa’s labour force, but also facilitate the continent’s development and economic growth while driving the innovation needed to help solve the socio-economic issues it continues to contend with.

However, despite Africa’s booming startup ecosystem, which boasts a value of $6.6 billion, the continent’s SMEs still find it challenging to secure equity funding (source of information). In addition to this, rising geopolitical tensions, global economic volatility and record inflation highs have created a more competitive fundraising environment, with investors becoming more risk-averse. This could spell even greater trouble in access to financing as Africa has long been perceived as a high-risk environment for investors as a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the continent as a homogenous entity rife with political instability, weak infrastructure, and other challenges.

It is clear that SMEs have a significant role to play in helping to realise Africa’s economic potential. But, in order to turn this potential into reality, there needs to be a shift away from traditional equity funding towards a more debt-focused approach.

Removing the negative perception of debt.

There is a lot of power in debt. Debt is how the world creates wealth and at moderate levels it can improve welfare and enhance growth. As such, debt financing offers SMEs the ability to receive funding without having to dilute equity. Essentially, the lender gains no control over the business and once the debt is repaid the relationship with the lender ends, unlike traditional equity funding where the business sells a portion of its equity in return for capital.

Additionally, it is a lot easier for SMEs to forecast their expenses as a loan payment is consistent while interest on said debt financing can often be tax-deductible.

Filling the funding gap by embracing venture debt

Over the last couple of years, Africa’s SME ecosystem experienced significant growth in spite of global economic uncertainty, attracting record amounts of funding against the global trend of a funding decline. According to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA), funding for African startups were on track to hit record levels as venture capital deals reached $3.5 billion in the first half of 2022 alone – more than double the amount raised in the same period in 2021.

This year, however, Africa’s startup investment landscape faced significant headwinds as venture capital decreased by a whopping $1.4 billion (43%) in the first six months of 2023. (source of information, it’s important to state because it involves numbers and we cannot say we own the information as Norsad)

In this challenging financing landscape, venture debt (a type of loan aimed at early-stage, high-growth companies with venture capital backing) could prove to be particularly important for Africa’s SME ecosystem and the continent’s growth as a whole.

Unlike with other types of lending, SMEs will not need to showcase any positive earnings or cash flow in order to receive venture debt funding. As such, access to finance is exponentially improved in comparison to traditional equity.

Able to be used as performance insurance, funding for acquisitions or capital expenses, or to bridge the gap between venture capital rounds and carrying strong and stable interest rates, venture debt is extremely attractive for both SMEs, fund investors and development finance institutions alike.

With around 51% of all Africa’s startups and SMEs in need of more funding than they can currently access, Africa’s potential for growth is becoming stuck in a state of stagnation. Improving access to funding will help to equip SMEs with the tools and resources needed to innovate, create and discover in ways that entire communities stand to benefit. Venture debt offers the continent a well of potential to empower SMEs to bring their groundbreaking ideas to life and drive Africa’s growth, development and competitiveness.

Kindly share this post
Continue Reading


Beyond doing good: Why ESG makes great business sense for African fintechs



Kindly share this post

By Funmi Dele-Giwa, General Counsel & Head, GRC at MFS Africa

If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you’re already familiar with the acronym ESG. Standing for “environmental”, “social”, and “governance”, it’s a constantly evolving standard that emphasises the importance of doing business in a way that positively impacts the environment, society and stakeholders.

Funmi Dele-Giwa

Funmi Dele-Giwa

In essence, it’s the idea that companies can grow and profit while doing good and it encourages businesses to be more transparent about how they add to or create value for their society, community and/or stakeholders.

While ESG has its critics (on both sides of the aisle), its philosophy has gained near-universal acceptance in investor circles. In fact, a 2022 study by asset management firm Capital Group found that 89% of investors consider ESG issues in their investment approaches. Additionally, there are around US$2.5 trillion in ESG assets under fund management. And with rising interest rates putting a dampener on investment (including in Africa), scoring well on those metrics may become more important than ever.

But for African fintechs the case for ESG goes beyond becoming investable. Implemented properly, the principles behind ESG make a great deal of business sense. As an illustration of how much of a boost it can be to a business, a study by accounting firm Moore Global found that companies with strong ESG principles saw their profits grow 9.1% in the three years between 2019 and 2022. In other words, the fintechs that get ESG right won’t just have an easier time attracting investment, they’ll also be better poised for growth, sustainability and profitability.

Why ESG works

Before looking into how African fintechs can put together the kind of ESG frameworks that encourage growth and investment, it’s worth taking a deeper look at why it makes good business sense (outside of the already strong investment case) to invest in ESG.

One of the most powerful is the African environmental context. According to the Africa Development Bank, for example, Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change. Any fintech that understands this and works to ensure that its operations are sustainable isn’t just helping mitigate the effects of climate change on the planet, it’s also helping ensure a future environment in which it’s more likely to survive and thrive.

Of course, ESG isn’t just about the environment. Its second social pillar has an equally important role to play. For fintechs this can look like ensuring that they hire diversely, support MSMEs, and contribute positively to employment in areas where it’s needed most. But perhaps even more importantly, it also includes financial inclusion.

Choosing to hire diversely has obvious societal benefits: for example it means that previously marginalised groups are able to participate in the economy at much higher levels. But it also comes with significant business benefits. And the higher up the organisation those hires climb, the greater the accrued benefits are. According to the Boston Consulting Group, companies with above average diversity in their management team report 19% higher innovation revenues than those with lower diversity.

Supporting micro, small, and medium-sized businesses also benefits fintechs. For starters, they make up a large customer base (particularly for B2B-focused fintechs) on the continent. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are approximately 44 million SMEs. These enterprises not only serve as the engine of many economies across the African continent, but they also represent a segment historically ignored and under-served by the more traditional financial services players. By providing products and services which speak directly to the pain points of micro and small enterprises, fintechs can not only tap into a fast growing and profitable segment, but can have a positive impact on the overall economic development and prosperity in the country in which they operate.

Growing financial inclusion in the region, meanwhile, is absolutely critical. At present, just 43% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have a formal bank account. That makes it difficult to access things like vehicle, home, and business loans that can be used to grow income. It also means that any savings the unbanked have can’t be used for wealth generating investments. Across the region, fintechs are helping people overcome those barriers by expanding financial services such as digital banking, microfinancing, and digital payments to people who wouldn’t previously have access to them.

The final pillar within the ESG framework, focuses on governance and this is often an overlooked and misunderstood pillar. I am an avid advocate and loud champion of strong corporate governance workings, but I am often asked how strong governance arrangements actually help an organisation thrive and grow.

Many people equate good governance with rigid structures and bureaucratic processes, but I respectfully disagree with these assertions. The truth is that a solid corporate governance foundation, coupled with the right corporate culture, has exactly the opposite effect. It frees an organisation from confusion and unnecessary work. It allows for decisions to be made more freely by people who have been empowered to take decisions. It ensures that key decisions are placed with and taken by the most appropriate individuals within an organisation. And it allows for a dynamic, organised, and agile organisation.

Examples of good governance practices every fintech should have in place include transparent decision-making processes, ethical behaviour, and accountability to stakeholders. This, in turn, helps build trust with customers, investors, and (increasingly stringent) regulators; fostering long-term sustainability and growth.

Building the right frameworks

Of course, claiming to be ESG compliant and having an effective ESG framework are two different things. While there are a variety of approaches that can be taken in doing so, at MFS Africa we take a three-pillared approach that focuses on “setting”, “measuring”, and “reporting” the impact we have in local communities and across the Africa continent.

During the “setting” phase, we outline the parameters which will guide the organisation in its ambition to build a strong impact-driven organisation with a clear ESG approach. Having done that, we measure against those parameters and then report transparently on those measurements.

While each organisation should tailor its ESG framework according to its individual needs and context, we’ve found this model to be the one best suited to us. It’s helped us grow to be the kind of organisation that can connect more than 500 million mobile money wallets across 40 African countries, supporting over 300,000 agents and providing access to financial services for millions of Africans.

A policy worth getting right

Ultimately, despite dire predictions from the extremes of the political landscape, it’s unlikely that ESG will go away soon. Even if the label disappears, it’s now so entrenched in the way that investors do business, that it’ll remain an important consideration. And that’s because the companies that do ESG well share many of the hallmarks of good, investable companies. As the African fintech sector continues to grow, its participants should ensure they’re taking a proactive and positive approach to ESG. This will transform the sector beyond “doing” good to “being” good – good for the economy, good for society and good for stakeholders.

Kindly share this post
Continue Reading


Kiddwaya Becomes BBNaija All Stars Second Head of House as Angel Secures Black Envelope Immunity



Kindly share this post

New Monday, new HOH game, Black Envelope search and nomination show, culminating into the ultimate drama showdown.

This week, Biggie switched up the game, going from one housemate per round last week to four teams of five housemates each. At the end of the first round, each team had two people qualify for the second and final round.

Team Fantastic Five, consisting of Ike, Pere, Kidd, Cross, and TolaniBaj, faced the HOH challenge first, with Kidd and Ike emerging as their qualifiers. In the first round, there were five basins filled with many plastic balls and opposite the filled bowls were seesaw beams. The housemates had to walk on the seesaw beams to transfer the balls from the basins to the shallow container at the end of the beam. The housemates were not allowed to use their hands to touch any part of the beam except the start point, which was clearly marked.

Biggie also noted that if any housemate touches any other part of the beam, it is considered a failed attempt, and they must start all over. He added that if the plastic balls fall out of the shallow container at the beam’s end, they must be returned to the basin, and the housemates must start again.

They were allotted 30 minutes to move the balls from the bowl to the end of the beam. The first two housemates to successfully transfer four balls and then return to the starting point would automatically qualify for the next round of the game. In the absence of the challenge completion by any housemate, the housemate with the most balls in their beam bowl will be declared the qualifier. Big Brother would decide on a sudden-death game if there was a tie. There were no sudden death games.

Team Veto Five – Whitemoney, Neo, Doyin, Princess and Ilebaye – went second. Neo and Ilebaye qualified after successfully transferring all four balls. Mercy, Frodd, Angel, Venita and Cee-C were a part of Team Five Star, which saw Frodd and Venita qualify for the next round after 30 gruelling minutes. Adekunle, Alex, Soma, Seyi, and Uriel’s Team Blizzard also struggled to finish the game in 30 minutes. Still, Soma and Adekunle qualified for the final round.

After the 4 teams had taken a turn, Big Brother announced that the Head of House game would pause for a while, introducing the black envelope challenge. The rule is simple – find the black envelope hidden in the house. One housemate can only have one envelope, but the search has to start after Biggie’s signal. Kidwaya, Neo and Angel found the envelopes. While Angel’s noted that she was immune from the week’s nomination, Kiddwaya and Neo had a message to have better luck next time.

Luck would come to play as the HoH game continued. Ike, Kiddwaya, Neo, Ilebaye, Frodd, Venita, Adekunle, and Soma, who passed the first challenge, headed to the final round. Big Brother announced a little twist in the game, explaining that the housemates are to put five balls in the shallow container in ten minutes, while other rules remain unchanged. After an intense round that saw Neo and Kiddwaya successfully transfer five balls in 10 minutes, the housemates had to head back into the lounge.

Afterwards, Big Brother announced Kiddwaya as the new head of the house. He received the chance to choose four BFFs who would share his lounge. He chose Tolanibaj, Uriel, Pere and Neo to be his BFFs for the week.

The HoH announcement led to the nominations. Big Brother announced that the nominations are taking a new turn until he says otherwise. He called the game ‘Pardon Me Please’. The voting style will see the housemates list who they want to give possible immunity for the week. They are not allowed to state their names, the HOH name or that of the Black Envelope winner’s. There will only be one winner. If there is no clear winner, Big Brother will declare the game inconclusive as Biggie will not recognise the tie.

Soma received the most nominations with eight nods. Ilebaye received two. The housemates nominated Ike, Venita, Cross, Neo Energy, Doyin, Mercy, Ceec, Uriel, Tolanibaj and Adekunle once. Big Brother announced that an emotional Soma is immune from possible eviction since he won the first-ever PMP game.

Every other housemate apart from Soma, Angel and Kiddwaya is up for possible eviction. Their continuity in the game depends on the viewers’ votes, and voting portals are now open until 9 pm on Thursday. Viewers can vote via the MyDStv and MyGOtv apps, mobile or website. Depending on their subscription, all DStv subscribers are liable to up to 10,000 votes (Prestige subscribers) or as little as 200 votes. GOtv subscribers, on the other hand, get between 200 and 750 votes (GOtv Supa+) based on their subscription.

Until the eviction show on Sunday, viewers can enjoy BBNaija All-Stars on the 24/7 channel – DStv ch. 198 and GOtv ch. 49. Remember, if you are away from home and don’t want to miss a minute of the action, you can catch up with your favourite All-Star housemates on the DStv app or Showmax.

Moniepoint Nigeria is the headline sponsor for the BBNaija All-Stars Edition and HFM – forex and commodities broker is the associate sponsor.

Kindly share this post
Continue Reading