Africa’s Digital Privacy Concerns

Poll only 25% of African businesses leaders believe that their national governments are capable of protecting their personal and health data; 57% believe that governments should not be able to track infected COVID patients without their consent

In a live poll conducted by as part of its webinar series, Crisis Management for African Business Leaders, 25% of webinar participants indicated they believe that their national governments are capable of securing health and other personal data they collect.  57% of respondents believe that their national governments are not capable of doing so.  18% of respondents indicated that they did not know if their government is capable or not.

A second poll question asked respondents if African governments should be able to track infected COVID patients without their consent.  The majority, 57% responded, “No” – governments should not be allowed to do so.  43% responded “Yes” – governments should be allowed to do so.

The poll was taken among nearly 2,400 webinar participants from 46 countries on the continent of Africa with the largest representation coming from Nigeria, followed by South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana.  65% of the participants have one of the following titles: CEO, managing director, president, principal, partner, CFO, chair, chief, director, executive director, group head, general manager, manager, counsel, attorney, lawyer, professor, economist, analyst, or consultant.

The largest sectors represented are financial services and professional services, followed by energy and manufacturing.  A smaller tier consisted of real estate, health care, agriculture, health care, and media, arts & entertainment. 

The live poll was part of a panel discussion, Law and Crisis Management: Working with Lawyers in Business, Government, and Society to Manage the Challenges of COVID-19, moderated by Harvard Law School Professor David Wilkins.

Participants included:

  • Opening remarks by The Honorable Eric Holder, 82nd Attorney General of the United States, who served President Barack Obama from 2009 – 2015
  • Gerald Abila, Founder and Executive Director, BarefootLaw
  • Myma Belo-Osagie, Co-Founder, Udo Udoma Belo-Osagie
  • Michel Brizoua-Bi, Partner, Bilé-Aka, Brizoua-Bi & Associés
  • Stephen Chege, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Safaricom
  • Prof. Vincent O. Nmehielle, SJD, Secretary-General, African Development Bank Group Office of the Secretary-General and General Secretariat
  • Ruth L. Okediji, Jeremiah Smith Jr Professor of Law, Harvard Law School and Co-Director, Berkman Klein Center
  • Sandie Okoro, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, World Bank Group
  • Thandi Orleyn, Chairperson, Legal Resources Trust 
  • Dr. Godfred Penn, Director and General Counsel, African Development Bank Chair and CEO Teresa Clarke commented:

“The poll results reflect a distrust of government to keep up with digital technology, which is a commonplace concern throughout the world, not just in Africa.  The exponential rate of technological development outpaces the speed at which almost all governments can enact legal and ethical oversight.”

The panel discussion was part of a series on crisis management developed by and faculty members from Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School. The next webinar discussion will take place on 10 June.  For more information and free registration, please visit

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