The president has ordered an end to the #EndSARS protests in an address that followed almost 2 weeks of silence.
disinformation and denials on the part of the government.
Accountability has been a mess.
The internet and social media have been pivotal to the success of the #EndSARS campaign and resultant protests; from incubation to awareness, funding, and, hopefully, resultant accountability.
Today, let’s talk about how these two technologies can deepen and decentralize democracy in Nigeria, and across Africa. First, subscribe to and catch up on older editions of this newsletter, and share it with a friend if you find it useful.
10.20.2020; 6:50 PM (WAT). An Instagram live video opens with cacophony; screams of agony and heavy gunfire from different directions. The madness is mistaken for a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Except this is real life, Lagos Nigeria, and people are dying in real-time.
“Look at bullet!,” a voice screams from behind the phone’s camera, showing some shells from live rounds hitting peaceful #EndSARS protesters in the Lekki Massacre.
Regardless of this live video, and multiple others from that night, the Lagos state governor blames “forces outside” his control, while the Nigerian Army flat out denies it.
The army suggests the video showing personnel with military uniforms were photoshopped. The disinformation and denials that followed is akin to epic levels of gaslighting.
But the internet and social media, as I said, are the differentiators this time around. And the fact that these massive denials are happening in the face of overwhelming evidence points to one fact; there would have been massive erasure and denial of history.
Beyond being used to chronicle this traumatic event and, hopefully, a tool for justice, there is so much more potential for social media in Nigeria and Africa.
Those who advocate change from behind screens have been snidely called ‘social media activists’.
This is quite ironic as, over the years, social media has grown to become the most pivotal tool for advocacy and activism, with the Arab Spring being one of the most prominent examples to date.
In the case
of the nationwide #EndSARS protests that spread throughout Nigeria, the spark started on Twitter, and the fire was sustained there till the very end.
The protests did not end on an expected note, but an upside is that it showed the power of the citizenry in the Nigerian context considering the structures built virtually that translated to real life.
Pleading anonymity, a Lagos-based political analyst weighs in;
“While there is despair on the outcome of this protest, I believe it has shown Nigerian youths the power they have, and most importantly has lowered the barrier to entry for politicking and accountability. Regardless of affiliations or even tribe, the ruling class are an impenetrable cabal; with abominable electioneering costs,” they said.
On the last point, as of 2018, Presidential nomination form of the two ruling parties; APC and PDP cost ₦45 million ($118,000) and ₦12 million ($31,000) respectively.
“With the recent structure demonstrated by organisations like the Feminist Co and other groups of volunteers, imagine the possibilities. There are already education efforts to reduce apathy, and things like recalling your lawmakers are becoming regular conversation. We
can even digitally crowdfund a candidate not enmeshed in corruption, and free from the shackles of sponsors,” the analyst said.
As I write this, there are still reports and videos on social media of SARS officers terrorizing citizens on the streets, even after the government has stated several times that it has been disbanded. Apparently, we did not end SARS, at
least not yet.
But all the protests and lives lost may not be in vain if this same strategy, energy, coordination, decentralization, and tech from the #EndSARS protests are channeled into more proactive endeavors of demanding our democracy and good governance.
FROM THE CABAL
#ShutItAllDown; Why Namibia is protesting. While Nigeria was occupied with the #EndSARS protests to end police brutality and
extrajudicial killings, Namibia was experiencing its own protests.
An internet shutdown will be literally too costly for Nigeria “One day of internet shutdown in Nigeria could cost the economy $134m (₦51.1bn), and if the shutdown lasts for a week, we could lose $939.7m (₦358bn), which is more than the 2020 budget for the Power (₦135bn) and Agric (₦183bn) sectors combined.”
“ People are finally realizing and accepting the role of technology in different aspects
of life; working from home, ordering goods online, etc. The informal retail economy is no different in that manufacturers and retailers are now better connected through technology and the end consumers are benefiting as well.
More data is being captured and greater insights are being discovered about the sector. I see a future where the informal retail sector is transformed and becomes fully automated making lives and businesses easier, especially for low-income populations who have been affected by the pandemic. Africa as an emerging market will see so much growth and the future is certainly promising for those who are ready to embrace innovation and technology.”
– Angela Nzioki, Kenya CEO, Sokowatch. Every week, we will ask our readers, stakeholders, and operators in Africa’s tech ecosystem what they think the new normal will look like, and will share their thoughts here. You can share yours with firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘The Crystal Ball’ in the subject line.
Bad Cops “It’s high time,” African Investment Advisor, Aubrey Hruby tweeted supporting calls for an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
“I brought VC investors to Nigeria from Egypt last year and they were completely shaken down and robbed by the police as they were leaving the country after an amazing week of meeting with stellar Nigerian entrepreneurs #EndSARS,” Hruby concluded narrating her experience with the rogue police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad
Many of the responses to her story were from people worried that the incident could cut investment into Nigeria’s technology sector. The technology subsector has been driving the growth of the services industry which is the bedrock of the Nigerian economy.
Imagine if more investors who provide the money required to fund growth in the sector experienced similar harassment from SARS?
Perhaps, the deal that saw global payment giant, Stripe acquire Nigerian payments company, Paystack will probably not have happened. Maybe it would have. But the security risk creates uncertainty that limits the immense talent of the Nigerian youth. Nigerian technology workers have quite a number of SARS horror stories.
It’s surprising that regulators, policymakers, and political leaders will not do all it takes to protect the industry. The technology industry contributes more to the country’s GDP than Oil & Gas which has been
the darling of the government for a long time.
Also, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a blow to the Nigerian economy. A financial services group, Cordros Capital, stated that the economy could shed about 6.91% and 4.15% in Q4 2020 and full year 2020 respectively. Nigeria has a revenue problem, it needs all sectors especially the technology industry firing on all cylinders.
Bad cops including regulators making unfavorable policy decisions are a threat to the potential of the technology industry which is largely driven by Nigeria’s youth population. Policy decisions such as the ban on bike-hailing in Lagos and similar anti-innovation announcements as well as security risks such as police brutality will further shrink the pie for the subsector and consequently, the Nigerian economy.