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The Internet shuts down the sponge across Africa

The last two years have been horrible for Internet access on the African continent, analyst Robert Besseling from EXX Africa's risk assessment firm says, and the situation may worsen. In the last four weeks, five African governments have temporarily restricted access to the Internet as part of political crises and unrest.

While this practice dates back several years, it says it has speeded up and hit the nations that rely on the internet for the dissemination of information and for an online business such as Zimbabwe.

"We counted 21 weaners across Africa in 2018, and for the first three weeks of 2019 we saw outages in five countries: Cameroon again, as well as Zimbabwe, as well as during the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the riots in Sudan, as well as short after trying to revolutionize Gabon, "Besseling said.

These five nations have one thing in common: the recent political unrest. Congolese shutdown occurred during chaotic, controversial, long-term elections and its controversial consequences. In Zimbabwe, fuel prices have risen violent protests, which have led to even more violent repression by security officials, followed by Internet blackouts.

Congolese lawyer Sylvain Saluseke, who lives in his own exile outside the country, says his compatriots in the pro-democratic youth group LUCHA fought for a worsening situation when they tried to carry out their mission of observing the December 30 polls and documenting the consequences.

"That was a big hurdle," he said for VOA. "Of course, besides, there have always been questions about how less we are able to pass on information or exchange information, which in itself raises the risk of whether and when someone was arrested or someone is going into some dangerous situation or risky situations."

FILE - A man checks his cell phone outside an Internet café in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 21, 2019.

FILE – A man checks his cell phone outside an Internet café in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 21, 2019.

Stopping the flow of information is the point of these shutdowns from the Internet, says Edgar Munatsi of the Zimbabwean Association of Doctors for Human Rights. Other advocacy groups have said the same thing, saying it was a tactic to cover the wide-ranging human rights violation that has – and can still happen – happening in Zimbabwe.

"Besides the fact that people stopped organizing, it was necessary for the media and the international community to lose what was happening at night and sometimes throughout the day," Munats told reporters. atrocities were committed during the night and during the shutdown of the Internet. If you realize that most Zimbabwean civil society leaders and activists were abducted during the night and no one knows where they are, some of them. "

Besseling, which assesses the continent from a commercial point of view, notes that African countries have easier shutdowns or violent slowdowns in Internet services, as many African telecoms companies are under state control.

The stops are high, he says.

"If you want to shut down the Internet in the whole geography of an economically significant country, you can of course estimate much higher costs, for example, in a country like Kenya, the cost would be $ 6.3 million a day if the Internet was shut down all over the country.

These losses come as he said through the disruption of information networks – such as stock price indices and commodities available on the Internet – and unavailability of e-commerce and e-banking.

He said there are other losses that can not easily be quantified, although getting reliable information about what is happening around you or perhaps the most difficult of all is losing contact with loved ones in times of crisis.

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