Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

A coalition of African nations have developed a data protection framework with the goal of centralizing data protection laws and the digital economy across Africa. Currently, five countries, including Nigeria, are testing the data protection framework, with the intention to make Africa a single market. After the testing is complete, the data protection framework will be replicated across additional African countries.

The data protection framework, focused on data transfers, is based on the legal agreement established with the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, also referred to as the Malabo Convention for Cyber Security and Data Protection. Adopted on June 27, 2014, the Malabo Convention sets essential rules, setting a credible and legal digital environment. The Malabo Convention also addresses gaps in previous legislation regarding customer protections, intellectual property, personal privacy and digital privacy. The goal of this new guidance builds off the Malabo Convention by ensuring that the transfer of data between African nations is seamless and protected. The framework will also help simplify companies’ compliance efforts when transferring their data across borders due to the presence of one, centralized data protection regulation, rather than multiple regulations by country. This framework is also seen as a way to entice businesses to host their data in Africa by providing clear guidance.

Olufemi Daniel of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has been pushing for a unified cross border data transfer policy for Africa, saying “The implication is that any data centre could be hosted in any African country. It also enables multinationals to choose a country in Africa they can invest in and any transfer of data would be linked to Africa. With 1.3 billion Africans, you have a stronger argument rather than going ahead individually. This will give investors more confidence to do business in Africa.”

A single data privacy standard for Africa is seen as a positive step forward, providing efficient and effective options for businesses looking to ensure that their data and their customer’s data stays safe. The test of the new framework is still ongoing; however, participating countries and companies are positive about the potential for a robust, collaborative data protection framework across the continent going forward.

We will continue to update this space with any advancements to Africa’s data protection collaboration.