Enter the dragon: The impact of China’s digital authoritarianism on democracy in Africa

Main Article Content

Amodani Gariba


An emerging discourse contends that China has become a willing collaborator for digital technology abuse through substantial investments in Africa’s digital infrastructure, thus leaving digital power at the discretion of unstable African governments. However, it is unclear whether Chinese companies are willing collaborators with autocratic regimes in advancing China’s model of digital authoritarian- ism in the African continent. Despite the need to better understand the changing dynamics of China’s role in aiding authoritarian regimes through digital technologies, research that responds to these concerns remains empirically understudied and under-conceptualised. The central question this paper addresses is: How does China’s model of digital authoritarianism affect autocratic politics and the trajectory of authoritarian regimes in Africa? The article’s primary objective is to investigate allegations that China is promoting its internet model, which includes censorship and restrictions, through digital investments in African countries. A related aim is to examine how African governments have abused their digital infrastructure to undermine their electoral processes and roll back democratic gains made since the early 1990s. In grappling with these concerns, part of this paper’s contribution is to explore critical practices and meanings of power that appear to have produced trajectories towards digital authoritarianism in Africa. The paper’s main departure point is the proposition that democratic rollbacks can be only partially understood by tracing China’s digital footprints on the continent. The article finds proliferating discourses that China is exporting an authoritarian digital authoritarianism model to Africa misleading. Instead, the evidence suggests that African autocracies are exploiting the adoption of China’s model of the internet to roll back democratic gains through surveillance and censorship of civil liberties.



Article Details

How to Cite
Gariba, A. (2023). Enter the dragon: The impact of China’s digital authoritarianism on democracy in Africa. The Africa Governance Papers, 1(4). Retrieved from https://tagp.gga.org/index.php/system/article/view/53
Research Articles
Author Biography

Amodani Gariba




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