Navigating digital sovereignty in Africa: A review of key challenges and constraints

Main Article Content

Tyler Venske


This paper examines the evolving global digital landscape from an African perspective. To do this, the paper problematises the concept of “digital sovereignty” in the African context by exploring the continent’s unique challenges. While investments by the United States (US) and particularly China in digital infrastructure projects have increased connectivity and improved lives, they raise ongoing concerns about Africa’s over-reliance on external partners and the implications of data exploitation and surveillance for the continent’s digital independence. Growing out of these concerns, the central argument of this paper is the need to delink African nation-states from foreign influence and control of the digital sector and to rearticulate or reframe the latter in terms of digital sovereignty. In this light, the paper contends that mainstream research on the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the African con- text does not sufficiently look past the power repertoires and dynamics of the US and China – wheth- er blaming or crediting - when theorising digital sovereignty. Instead, the paper argues that to fully understand the African continent’s battle to establish and maintain a coherent framework for digital independence, it is essential to consider the challenges and constraints of digital sovereignty. Drawing on a review of extant literature, the paper springboards off a set of broad themes and case studies to deepen understanding and highlight key hurdles to Africa’s digital independence. The paper suggests that African nations must strive to overcome risks to digital sovereignty if the latter is to genuinely empower nation-states and citizens in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


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How to Cite
Venske, T. (2023). Navigating digital sovereignty in Africa: A review of key challenges and constraints. The Africa Governance Papers, 1(4). Retrieved from
Research Articles
Author Biography

Tyler Venske, The African Centre for the Study of the US at the University of the Witwatersrand




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