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Internet off mushrooms across Africa

The last two years have been bleak to access the Internet on the African continent, according to analyst Robert Beselling of the risk assessment firm EXX Africa, and the situation may deteriorate. Only in the last four weeks, not less than five African governments have temporarily closed access to the Internet in conditions of political crisis and unrest.

While this practice dates back several years, he says he is accelerating and striking people who rely on the Internet to disseminate information and trade with the Internet, such as Zimbabwe.

"We counted 21 offsets across Africa in 2018, and so far this year in the first three weeks of 2019 we have seen closing in five countries: again, Cameroon, and the most eminent Zimbabwe, as well as during the Democratic Republic of Congo riots and riots in Sudan, as well as shortly after a coup attempt in Gabon, "Beselling said.

The five countries have one thing in common: recent political unrest. Congo's closure occurred during chaotic, contested, long-delayed elections and its controversial consequences. In Zimbabwe, rising fuel prices led to violent protests, leading to more violent measures by security officials, followed by an eclipse.

Silvein Salusuke, a Congolese rights activist, Silvain Salusek, who lives in a self-exalted exile outside the country, says his compatriots in a pro-democracy youth group FIGHT fought under the gloom as they tried to carry out their observation mission on December 30th and documenting the consequences.

"It was a major hurdle," he told VOA. "Of course, there have always been questions about the less we are able to transfer information or exchange information, which in itself increases the risk of whether and when someone is arrested, or someone goes into any dangerous situations or risky situations . "

FILE - A man checks his mobile phone outside an internet cafe in Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 21, 2019.

FILE – A man checks his mobile phone outside an internet cafe in Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 21, 2019.

Breaking the flow of information is a point of closure on the internet, claims Edgar Munacci of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Practitioners Association. Other rights groups have claimed the same, saying this is a tactic to cover the uncontrolled human rights abuses that have – and could still happen – in Zimbabwe.

"In addition to just preventing people from organizing, there was a need to dry out, in terms of the media and the international community, what was going on during the night and sometimes during the day," Mr Munazi told reporters. the atrocities were committed during the night and during Internet disconnections. If you realize that most leaders and civil society activists in Zimbabwe were kidnapped at night, and no one knows, up to now, where they are, some of them. "

Beselling, who assesses the continent from a business perspective, notes that African countries have easier shutdowns or forcibly slowing down Internet services, as many African telecom companies are under state control.

The closure comes with high costs, he says.

"If you had to turn off the internet through the geography of an economically important country, then, of course, much higher costs can be estimated. In a country like Kenya, for example, the price will be $ 6.3 million a day, was closed across the country. "

These losses come, he said, through disruptions in information networks – such as Internet-accessible stock and prices for commodity price indices – and the inaccessibility of electronic commerce and e-banking.

He said there are other losses that can not be easily measured, though, how to get reliable information about what's going on around you, or perhaps the hardest of all, to lose contact with loved ones in times of crisis.

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