African Regional Privacy Instruments: Their Effects on Harmonization
(2014) 132 Privacy Laws and Business International Report 19-21
5 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2015 Last revised: 4 Mar 2015
Date Written: December 1, 2014
There are now strong moves within sub-regions of Africa promoting harmonisation of data protection laws, as well as at the regional level of Africa as a whole (the recent continent-wide African Union Convention and the civil society Declaration – see Greenleaf and Georges http://ssrn.com/abstract=2546652). This article focuses on the sub-regional developments. Africa’s 54 countries have important data privacy agreements and model laws in sub-regions or Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of Africa. Africa has at least eight RECs, but only four are as yet significant in the data privacy context: ECOWAS (west); SADC (south), ECCAS and CEMAC (central) and EAC (east). The scope and purpose of these sub-regional developments is outlined, emphasizing their influences and history.
In parallel with the ECOWAS developments, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), with financial support from the European Union (EU), developed from 2008 onward a project with African countries on a subregional basis called HIPSSA (Harmonization of ICT Policies in Sub-Sahara Africa). The ECOWAS and HIPSSA developments are the two main drivers in African data privacy laws.
While the general understanding is that ‘globalisation’ means adoption of universal standards, in practice when personal data processing is concerned it means a lot of regional developments, north-south data flows and some growing global hegemonies. In that sense, seeing data protection law being promoted in parallel at the national level and by way of model laws on the sub-regional level, when complete regional (i.e. Africa-wide) integration is not achieved, is a very pragmatic and pedagogical way of promoting consistent legal systems and knowledge in a new field on a large scale.
Keywords: AFRICA, data protection, privacy, HIPSSA, ECOWAS, SADC, EAC, ECCAS
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