Turns Average Citizens into Influencers in Africa
June 23, 2017 2:00 PM
From cashless payments to smartphone apps offering everything from taxis
to take-out food - Africa's digital revolution is gathering pace as
average citizens take an active role in public discourse.
"You're seeing a lot of the people changing the way they live their
lives," says Maria Sarungi, founder of the #ChangeTanzania platform.
"And also creating for themselves wealth, jobs, opportunities. But also
to engage politically on a very different level."
Sarungi's #ChangeTanzania platform began as a social media hashtag but
ballooned into an online social movement with an app and website listing
dozens of petitions and initiatives ranging from demands for security
cameras at bus stops to a community beach clean.
"Before [it] used to be people sitting on the streets just talking a lot
about politics," says Sarungi. "But today they have become influencers.
With the social media platforms, your voice can be amplified."
In Uganda, the website Yogera, or 'speak out,' offers a platform for
citizens to scrutinize government, complain about poor service or blow
the whistle on corruption.
Kenya's Mzalendo website styles itself as the 'Eye on the Kenyan
Parliament,' profiling politicians, scrutinizing expenses and
highlighting citizens' rights.
But the new platforms for political engagement also risk a backlash.
are seeing governments trying to control as much as they can the virtual
space," says Sarungi.
The founder of whistleblowing website Jamii Forums last year fell afoul
of Tanzania's Cybercrimes Act and was charged with failing to disclose
"We are not against the government, nor judges, nor the police forces,"
says Maxence Melo, co-founder of Jamii Forums. "What we are against is
the Cyber Crimes Act, which seems to oppress the people."
Melo's trial is due to take place next month.
Meanwhile, authorities in Cameroon cut off internet access for millions
of people earlier this year following anti-government protests in
English-speaking regions on the country. The French campaign group
Internet without Borders warns that African governments are increasingly
using internet blackouts to stifle political opposition.