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Pausing Africa's Big Brother surveillance programs

Pausing Africa's Big Brother surveillance programs
By get.Africa Weekly • Issue #81 • View online
Wasuze otya nno?
That’s good morning in Luganda
This newsletter is designed to be brief. You’re a busy person and Monday morning is usually the busiest time of the week, so I try to keep things short and insightful.
That said, there are some topics that I feel 500 or so words don’t do justice to, and I’ve been looking for ways to go deeper without affecting the structure of the newsletter. 
My latest experiment is to publish longer-form articles on other platforms. 
Last week, I wrote an op-ed for TechCabal on facial recognition being used for law enforcement around Africa. It’s a call for policymakers to pause programs (which I refer to as Big Brother-as-a-service) from vendors such as Huawei.
Why is this important?
As recently as 2019, studies found that even top-performing facial recognition systems misidentified blacks at rates five to ten times higher than they did whites. 
What this means is that, in Africa, a continent where black people make up 60-70% of the population, there’s potential for great harm. Think wrongful arrests and false convictions, think being picked up for a crime that someone else committed because an AI system mistook you for that person. 
Why now?
International forces: As a result of the studies I referred to, the big US AI companies have either paused or stopped using their solutions to support law enforcement, but the Chinese AI companies operating in Africa continue to use the technology unchallenged.  
Local forces: Many of Africa’s governments are looking for newer ways to surveil their citizens. A recent report found that boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) are now part of the Ugandan government’s surveillance system. But while a lot of the criticism of such systems has been about privacy and digital authoritarianism, I’m questioning whether they are even good enough, to begin with. 
You can read the article here.

get.Africa is a weekly roundup of the most important stories in African tech. To support, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube channel, share this issue or send us an email. You can also check our archives.
Credit: Claudio Schwarz (Unsplash)
Credit: Claudio Schwarz (Unsplash)
What's the Big Deal?
+ ₦ Kuda Bank raises $55m Series B at a $500m valuation to drive its expansion outside Nigeria. To dig deeper into Kuda and the funding round: Afrobility Podcast, Not a Deep Dive and Unevenly Distributed newsletter.
+ ₦ Freight logistics startup MVX raises $1.3m seed to expand operations and grow team.
+ ZAR South Africa’s Khula closes $1.3m seed to scale its software-for-agriculture platform.
+ Le Sierre Leonian AI startup Macro-Eyes receives $2.1m funding to expand into two other countries.
+ KSh Kenya’s Wapi Pay raises $2.2m pre-seed for cross-border payments between Africa and Asia.
+ ZAR Naspers leads $11m investment in South African insurtech Naked.
+ ZAR South African fintech company Callpay sold at over $6.8m valuation.
+ ₦ Nigeria’s Decagon raises $1.5m seed round to finance and train software engineers.
Watch + Listen
Why it's too Early to Use Facial Recognition in African Law Enforcement
Why it's too Early to Use Facial Recognition in African Law Enforcement
+ Reads
+ The dark side: Why South African crypto mogul Riccardo “Fluffypony” Spagni was arrested in the United States. While in Nigeria, convicted scammer Huspuppi’s story is coming to the big screen; this article explores internet fraud in popular literature.
+ MTN’s Ethiopian excursion Round 2: Ethiopia to reopen bidding for second telecom licence in August 2021, including mobile money rights. But even though it missed out the first time, MTN, who are already taking a beating for doing business in the war-torn parts of the Middle East, may not re-enter. Here’s why.
+ Nigeria’s Twitter Ban Watch: 2 months into the ban and a new class-action lawsuit has reportedly been filed against Nigerian telcos. Meanwhile, the ECOWAS court treating 5 previous lawsuits has adjourned till September.
+ Jumpstarting the blockchain movement: Due to a lack of traditional banking access, developing countries rely on blockchain and cryptocurrency for business transactions now more than ever.
+ Nigerian mobile industry: The number of mobile subscribers in Nigeria rose for the first time since the NCC ban. Despite a stellar H1, MTN confirms plans to sell 14% of its Nigerian business. Actually, revenues across the entire industry rose by 12% in 2020.
Overheard on Twitter
Rihanna’s Maiguard
$159k revenues, $2.7 million in losses and $500 million valuation. Wonderful.
So many people in our industry need to go back and watch this short movie to be reminded of the business of venture. We invest in upside. We are VCs not bankers.
Context: Kudabank
I'm writing a book on remote work for African businesses
I'm writing a book on remote work for African businesses
+ To make whiteboard animation videos like this for educational or marketing purposes, please send us an email.
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