*Wits School of Governance - African Governance in the Digital Age (Working papers)

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    Illegible data: A counterpoint to the evidence-based approach in policy decision making
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Abrahams, Caryn
    The art of governing is closely linked to the statecraft of decision making based on evidence. Population dynamics, social change and the growth of the middle class are some of the data analyses used to shape and influence policy directions and programmatic interventions in particular places. Data analysis is a crucial technology of governance, and it is how place, people and neighbourhoods are known and made legible to the state where the typical goal of the state is the reduction of the ‘disorderly, constantly changing social reality beneath it to something more closely resembling the administrative grid of its observations’ (Scott, 1998:82). Moreover, this ordering tendency is necessary for decision making that will have the highest impact for the greatest number of people – so there is, indeed, a crucial logic to this approach. Drawing from feminist urban scholars and others, this paper offers a provocation of sorts. It discusses the implications of the homogenising tendency at the heart of data-led approaches to governing. It considers the categories of urban residents and urban life that evade simplification and thus escape meaningful inclusion in policy intervention. This paper does not provoke a discussion of the ‘residual/elided/invisible/foreclosed’, that is, the illegible, unreadable and unseen in an attempt to diminish the potential and power of data-driven approaches to governance. Rather, it offers a counterpoint, and argues for the other kinds of illegible/unseen/residual data to sit alongside the data considered more legible and credible for decision-making processes. The goal of doing this is so that our knowing, official interests and rational models of policy intervention do not become mechanised or automated, but retain a view on the textual, nuanced and unresolved matters that make up everyday life in everyday contexts.
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    Intercontinental Netizenship: Digitisation of political transnationalism of Europe-based African migrants against homeland authoritarianism
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Tshimpaka, Leon Mwamba
    This paper seeks to understand the digitisation of transnational political activities of Europe-based African migrants, using internet as a political tool to fight against homeland authoritarian practices from abroad. It does so by investigating how Europe-based Congolese migrants put their transnational political practices on digital platforms to mobilise against what they perceive to be authoritarian practices back home. Nowadays, remittances are no longer the only contribution of African migrants toward their countries of origin from the diaspora. Whether in person or online, African migrants have become much more involved in transnational political activities to counter or shape and influence their homeland governance systems. Drawing on the notions of internet politics, political transnationalism of migrants and digital governance, this paper reviews political regimes and the digital space in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 1990 to 2019; the period marking both the democratic transition, the decline of democracy and the emergence of netizenship and internet activism. These have triggered Europe-based Congolese migrants to devise intercontinental digital strategies to demand homeland democratic change from abroad. Based on qualitative desktop review and content analysis, this paper has identified different kinds of transnational digital strategies exhibited by Europe-based Congolese migrants during their digital engagement against what they perceived to be homeland authoritarian practices from abroad.
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    Governing African smart cities: The role of digital citizenship in municipal e-participation
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Muzenda, Archimedes; Chikukwa, Maryjane
    The rapid urbanisation, combined with the proliferation of information and communication technology (ICT), has driven cities across Africa to adopt smart city strategies to manage urban development. As the adoption of smart city strategies increases across varied contexts, a call for a citizen-centric approach to smart cities has emerged – an effort to address the needs of citizens in smart city projects. While citizen-centric approaches are being adopted in smart governance, the role of citizens in a digital era are thinly explored in relation to their impact on the participation of citizens in smart cities across Africa. Drawing upon case studies from three cities, Cape Town, Nairobi and Rabat, this paper explores the role played by the emerging digital citizenship in smart governance, with a focus on e-participation. Using a three-dimensional framework of e-enabling, e-engaging and e-empowering, the paper identifies two factors that impact negatively on citizens’ participation through e-participation platforms. First is the citizens’ poor sense of belonging in terms of digital access and participation rights. Second, the paper identifies low political efficacy among citizens, coupled with high corruption levels among municipal officials; citizens have a poor perception of the utility of participating through e-participation platforms. The paper argues that it is crucial to consider the spatial characteristics of a city, the social-cultural factors and the political climate of a city to predict the role of citizens in smart governance – citizens’ sense of belonging and their political efficacy.
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    Chinese artificial intelligence in Africa: Digital colonisation or liberalisation?
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Tinarwo, Joseph; Babu, Suresh Chandra
    In this era of globalisation and progressive digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI) has become an integral part of our everyday lives. While AI technology is lauded for increasing economic growth and solving some of the intricate global development challenges, such as climate change as well as disease and natural disaster forecasting, it has become a threat to citizen freedom and democracy and there are concerns of data privacy and security. China is rapidly expanding its AI and has emerged as one of the leading nations in artificial intelligence, research and development, particularly in the global South. Africa is one of the continents that has become a destination of the fast-expanding Chinese AI, notwithstanding that its impacts remain unknown. This research primarily adopted a qualitative research approach to examine the impact of Chinese AI in Africa and identify opportunities for facilitating positive influence of Chinese AI and digital presence in Africa. The study found that the expansion of Chinese AI in the global South, using Zimbabwe and South Africa as case studies, has been associated with mixed results. Since its beginning in the late 1970s after the economic reform, the Chinese AI-led automation has resulted in improved productivity, particularly in agriculture, health, infrastructure and manufacturing industries. However, the Chinese AI has been associated with gross human rights violations and promotion of corrupt practices, such as patronage and rent-seeking behaviour. Additionally, Chinese AI is undermining the rule of law and the functionality and legitimacy of weaker state institutions and processes.
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    Africa’s agency in the competing narratives of external partners in Africa’s digital market A comparison of Japan and China
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Kinnes, Shaun; Rubidge, Laura
    According to United Nations reports, Africa’s economic growth potential is among the highest in the world. It is thus unsurprising that many global powers have turned their attention to the continent, often motivated by the opportunity to help Africa ‘leapfrog’ infrastructure challenges through funding the innovative application of information and communication technologies (ICTs). As the global competition for Africa’s economic growth and, more specifically, Africa’s digital sector heats up, understanding Africa’s interests and agency within these negotiations becomes increasingly pertinent. This article explores some of the competing narratives provided by external states that seek a stake in the development of Africa’s profitable digital market. The article employs Lesley Masters’ (2021) digital diplomacy lens defined as ‘a means of navigating the evolving international digital governance regime and negotiating a more even playing field to address the inequalities in the international structure’. The article compares and contrasts the narratives that are framed by two ‘competitors’, namely China and Japan. These two states are expected to become significant players in the development of Africa’s digital market; China has become one of the most important funders in ICT networks in the global South and Japan’s recent pledge of $30 billion in aid to Africa includes the digital technology sector.
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    E-audit to monitor e-government progress to address better service delivery and digital divide
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Moloto, Anastasia Noko; Muchie, Mammo
    Computer auditing is a systematic and logical process that follows a risk-based methodology to monitor an organisation’s information and processes. Computerised auditing provides significant advantages such as speed and accuracy of operations and the ability to see the real-time financial status of a company. In addition, the system can provide reliable information to assist in decision-making, minimise the likelihood of arithmetical and human errors and improve the quality of information. This paper will examine how e-audits can be used to monitor e-government progress to address better service delivery and bridge the digital divide, using a quantitative research approach. Thirty questionnaires were sent to participants in different government departments in South Africa. A total of 17 questions were asked. The study findings suggest that e-auditing is a useful software solution that could be implemented in South Africa to manage and fast-track the roll-out of e-government, specifically in rural areas, where it has not yet been introduced. In addition, e-auditing can be used to track service delivery processes. Secondly, the study demonstrated the quality and efficiency of the e-auditing process, by eliminating human error and curtailing the manipulation of data or information, and the potential for corruption. However, various strategies need to be put in place.
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    Entrepreneurship, digitalisation and productivity Evidence from sub-Saharan African region
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Edeh, Jude
    Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has been slow and the region has been struggling to address the mounting challenges, ranging from unemployment to poverty. While research, especially from advanced economies, suggests that entrepreneurship is regarded as a major driver of productivity growth, it is still unclear whether and how entrepreneurship promotes productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. This paper fills the gap by examining the interconnected impact of entrepreneurship and digital infrastructure on productivity, using panel data from Sub-Saharan African countries. The econometric estimates reveal that digital infrastructure has moderating effects on the entrepreneurship—productivity nexus. Thus, these results imply that entrepreneurship does not promote productivity, except through the enabling effect of digital infrastructure. The study provides policy implications for governments and policymakers in the Sub-Saharan African countries.
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    Politicians on digital platforms: A resource or a threat?
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Mboya, Tom
    Political discourse in Africa has historically been a one-sided affair: a monologue whereby politicians speak to the electorate in a political rally context. Digital platforms have changed that narrative, providing opportunities for genuine two-way discourse. In an environment where politicians are often demi-gods, armed with only a smart phone, even residents of remote areas are now able to reach local and national level politicians and institutions via social media. With the proliferation of the mobile phone and social media usage on the rise in Africa, there has never been a better opportunity for more robust political debate, and more importantly, an increasingly people-centered and needs-driven public policy agenda. Is this the reality though? Unfortunately, the prevalence of disinformation presents a significant challenge with respect to false narratives perpetuated online, and hence relations between politicians and the electorate. This paper, therefore, seeks to examine the extent to which access to politicians through digital platforms has resulted in improved policy, legislation, or service delivery. Furthermore, it interrogates the threats disinformation poses to relations between politicians and the electorate.
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    Governance of digital for transformative change in Africa
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Daniels, Chux
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    Digital pervasiveness and divisiveness: the role of an African government in enabling healthy digital futures
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Bashir, Iman; Oyewale, Fisayo
    Africa has been said to be left behind during the past industrial revolutions. In the face of the fourth industrial revolution, in which digitalisation plays a key role, technology is seen as pervasive (according to African digital futures), especially in its cross-sectorial application and everyday use. The use of digital tools and applications remains driven by growing interconnection, intelligent automation and interoperability, which continue to influence digital innovations and divides. Studies revealed disparity in the statistics regarding mobile internet connectivity for the already connected, coverage and the usage gap. The coverage gap was most pronounced, further widening the digital divide beyond location and affordability. Without addressing the issues of access, affordability and regulation, existing inequalities, digital vulnerabilities, political and ethnic divides escalate further. Research has also shown that open data in the continent contributes to government transparency, accountability and public innovation. However, few open data initiatives actively promote inclusion and equity. This research explores the diverse perspectives of digital age themes, alongside the opportunities, risks, paradoxes and techno-determinism, to analyse the efforts of African governments to digitally transform the continent. This paper further builds on the African digital governance project, which explored the value of data, ownership, policy and digitally enabled political participation. This essay explores the continent's ability for collective transformation, using the 5D model of appreciative inquiry, and suggests several points of view for escaping the status quo.
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    Realising digitalised electoral process in Africa: Public policy implications from Kenya's electoral technology systems
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Ondiek, Japheth; Onyango, Gedion
    Leveraging digital technologies in Africa's voting systems has recently become a battleground for political elites to influence election outcomes in Kenya, as elsewhere globally. Although the technology used in voting has received its fair share of criticism, it has consistently demonstrated that the public can get detailed results much earlier, including reduced electoral fraud and increased accuracy of results. However, whereas electoral bodies are making good progress in their digital institutional learning and transformation, a comprehensive policy gap remains. Without national policies on electoral system digitalisation, electoral technologies remain vulnerable to malpractices, such as hacking and data manipulation by political actors. In this paper, we argue that a comprehensive policy framework to guide the digitalisation of electoral systems could potentially improve and smooth the journey of democratisation of African countries. Electoral digitalisation policies can achieve a greater degree of authority and political independence, besides enhancing the efficacy of the technological systems over time. Most importantly, institutional acceptance and embedded cultures of technological change must be aligned with existing policies and legal frameworks. We show how this can work in Kenya, whose electoral systems have had tremendous experience and incremental digital technology transformation since 2013. We unpack the reciprocal relationships between technical and policy aspects of digitalising electoral systems, pointing out how and what aspects need to be covered in designing a national policy when creating digital electoral systems in developing country contexts. Doing so also displays some critical challenges confronting the administrative transition to electoral technology systems. Keywords: data protection, electoral technology, technology adoption, policy digitalisation, elections, digital technology, digital publics
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    Social media, opposition political parties and democratic governance in authoritarianist countries in Africa
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Tametong, Steve
    The objective of this paper is to demonstrate that social media has redefined the modalities of political communication and facilitated the organisation of collective mobilisation by opposition political parties in authoritarian regimes in Africa. Taking Cameroon and Chad as case studies, the paper shows that social networks (Facebook) have overtaken traditional communication tools and enabled opposition political parties during the electoral period to mobilise voters, encourage their participation in the vote, raise funds for the electoral campaign and ensure the transparency of the electoral system. Outside of election periods, social media allows opposition political parties to build and maintain a permanent relationship with grassroots activists. The study demonstrates that social media constitutes a threat to autocratic regimes and the way in which these regimes multiply strategies to limit their impact in the qualitative transformation of society. Using a qualitative approach and the theoretical framework of new forms of political mobilisation, the analysis is based on empirical data collected from interviews, questionnaires, observation and digital traces of the presence of four opposition political parties in Cameroon and Chad. Finally, this study recommends that opposition political parties take advantage of social media to build real democracy governance in Africa in the digital age.
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    Illusions of inclusion: Fintech in Africa
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Ayodele, Odilile
    Can fintech deliver on its promise of achieving financial inclusion in Africa? This working paper advances the argument that the heady optimism around fintech is over enthusiastic. It provides an overview of the fintech landscape in southern Africa, focusing specifically on mobile money, which it posits fits more accurately within imaginaries of modernity and inclusion. Employing a mixed methods approach, the paper examines subscription data to highlight that the rural poor are still excluded. Additionally, ignoring the differences between rural and urban locales, including differing social and cultural contexts, exacerbates financial exclusion. The discussion is framed by the emerging concept of digital political economy.
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    Governance and Africa's financial development amid sustainable digitalisation
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Ejemeyovwi, Jeremiah O; Osabuohien, Evans S; Bowale, Ebenezer I K
    The technological revolution presents opportunities for financial development in Africa. However, the opportunities need to be supplemented with good governance to ensure efficiency and optimal welfare gains. It is therefore worth investigating whether governance, as well as digitalisation shocks, are crucial for the relatively underdeveloped nature of the financial system of such countries and regions. This study therefore examines the impact of governance and digitalisation shocks on financial development in Africa. Specifically, the study tests out the triple-helix model on five uniquely selected African regional representative countries, namely Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Rwanda and Tunisia for robust and comparative policy estimates. Notably, the study utilised data from the World Development Indicators of the World Bank Group (2023). It adopts the Bayesian Vector Auto-Regressive (VAR) empirical modelling to achieve this objective. The technique was utilised after the model stability test was carried out, using the auto-regressive roots test. The impulse response function across Africa is inferred from the model simulation. The study's findings and recommendations contribute to the literature and economic agents (such as multinationals), empirical evidence of the theoretical reflections of digitalisation and governance on financial development in Africa.
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    Endogenous innovation and digital inclusion: A Global African perspective
    (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023-09) Soumonni, Ogundiran; Monroe-White, Thema
    This paper systematically reflects on the myriad ways in which Africans, understood as a global people who include their Diaspora, can more effectively draw on their own technological capabilities in order to achieve more inclusive and equitable digital outcomes. We begin with the observation that while ongoing scholarly and policy discourses on the global digital revolution optimistically highlight its opportunities for African societies, the imperative of the domestic contribution to these – endogenous innovation – is often buried among numerous other considerations. As such, our study delineates the diverse, though mutually reinforcing, ways in which endogenous technological innovation, ranging from research and development (R&D) to the novel deployment of existing technologies, is effectively employed by intentional actors in state, private sector and grassroots organisations. Digital governance in this perspective is then informed by constant attention to the interplay between these two dimensions (governance and technological innovation) with the ultimate aim of achieving universal and equitable digital access, particularly in less privileged Global African societies, and within a relatively short time horizon. Lastly, informed by historical path dependence, that is, philosophical, technical and experiential examples from the past, we develop a conceptual framework which we call endogenous digital innovation. This framework more explicitly highlights some of the critical pathways that could lead to desirable socio-technical futures in the African world.