When he posted a protest video on Facebook, wrapping himself in the national flag, the Rev. Evan Mawarire (below, right) became one of Zimbabwe’s first social media stars, the embodiment of widespread grievances against President Robert Mugabe. His subsequent posts on Twitter helped set the stage for the biggest protest against the government in a decade in the capital, Harare, in early July, The New York Times reports:
Fearing the power that social media gives to rivals, activists and ordinary citizens, governments in Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Chad, Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia have switched off access to the internet for days or weeks, including during elections. Even Ghana, a standard-bearer for democracy on the continent, is considering restricting social media in elections next month.
The pushback comes as the use of social media continues to spread across the continent and tech companies increasingly look to sub-Saharan Africa for growth. With many Africans still offline, Africa has a large, untapped market, and is the continent with the world’s fastest-growing population.
A new film from International IDEA’s Digital Parties Portal – Power in our Pockets: Social Media, Money and Politics in the Digital Age (above) – highlights the role that digital technology and social media can play in enhancing the accountability and transparency of political processes. Its online tool on Digital Reporting and Disclosure also assists financial oversight agencies to receive and publish political party and candidate financial data digitally, with the aim of enhancing transparency of political party finance. RTWT