The role of Chinese companies in exporting tools and platforms for public security management has sparked intense debate about the rise of so-called ‘digital authoritarianism’. The African continent is often cited as an example of China extending its digital sphere of influence. Yet, China-centric arguments often neglect the perspectives, agency and needs of local actors who choose to procure certain technologies to support domestic development and security ambitions. They also overlook the footprint of the European surveillance industry.
This MERICS event explored how African and European actors can work together to build human rights and democratic resilience in the digital space, develop robust cybersecurity and data protection frameworks, and promote right protecting and cost-effective technology solutions. It took place against the backdrop of major developments: The EU’s Global Gateway initiative, which is hoped to inject further stimulus to the digital partnership with the African Union; the sixth EU-African Union Summit in early 2022; and the recently held Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, in which digital issues featured prominently.
- Bulelani Jili, Futures Fellow, MERICS; Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University
- David Ringrose, Head of Division, Connectivity & Digital Transition, European External Action Service
- Rebecca Arcesati, Analyst, MERICS
- Claudia Wessling, Director Communication and Publications, MERICS
Please note that the meeting was confidential and not open to the public.