Advancing Consumer Protection across Africa in the Digital Age

By CIPE Writer |

Consumer protection serves as an avenue for promoting transparency, accountability, and trust in the digital age, helping shield both consumers and small businesses from unfair practices online. According to a report by the International Finance Corporation and Google, “Africa’s internet economy has the potential to reach $180 billion by 2025, accounting for 5.2% of the [Continent’s] gross domestic product (GDP). By 2050, the projected potential contribution could reach $712 billion, 8.5% of the [Continent’s] GDP.” As electronic commerce (eCommerce) grows, consumer protection should be seen as an enabler of the digital economy.

Although the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection offer guidance on the main characteristics of effective consumer protection legislation, “consumer protection is often one of the last areas that developing economies focus on regulating as they create frameworks around eCommerce.”


In Africa, very few countries are adequately addressing consumer protection concerns. Of the 54 African countries, only 25 have laws that pertain to online consumer rights and electronic transactions, while only four have draft laws. In other instances, issues pertaining to consumer protection are interspersed between laws.

For example, Uganda enacted laws on electronic transactions, electronic signatures, and computer misuse in 2011, yet gaps still remain in adequately securing online consumer rights. As more African countries develop new legislation and frameworks that seek to govern the digital economy, now is the opportune time for diverse stakeholder groups to engage in policy conversations and ensure that consumer protection is a priority.


In addition to identifying opportunities at a local or national level, governments across Africa should work with one another and various stakeholder groups to address Continent-wide consumer protection concerns. The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) identified the adoption of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as an important development that presented an opportune time to advance dialogue and consensus on how to shape and govern the digital economy on the Continent to promote greater regional cohesion, development, and competitiveness.


To identify regional opportunities that can positively shape Africa’s digital transformation, CIPE and CIPESA brought together over 35 stakeholders representing the local private sector, civil society, media organizations, and government at the 2019 edition of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This regional policy dialogue formed the basis of the Roadmap to Reform: Building an Enabling Environment for Inclusive Digital Transformation in Africa.

The Roadmap advocates for the advancement of strong consumer protection legislation across Africa to “help enhance trust in eCommerce across business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions and business-to-business (B2B) transactions that can arise in disputes around digital payments.” Since the multi-stakeholder conversations surrounding the adoption of the AfCFTA in 2019, key recommendations highlighted in the Roadmap to Reform remain timely, as African Union member states begin to implement the agreement after it came into force on January 1 of this year.

There is a unique opportunity for local business communities, civil society, media organizations, and governments to work together and ensure the agreement is implemented in a way that supports an inclusive enabling environment for the digital economy. To read more about the Roadmap to Reform, please visit:

An Enabling Environment for Inclusive Digital Transformation

FIFAfrica19 |
The digital economy, including cross-border services, digital trade, and electronic commerce (eCommerce), contributes to democratic and economic development by expanding market access for local businesses, promoting inclusive trade, creating jobs, and expanding tax revenue for governments to provide essential services. As the scope of digital innovation expands around the continent, so must national and regional priorities and policies align to facilitate greater competitiveness, inclusiveness all while respecting online freedoms and digital rights.
This panel discussion will feature key insights on priority policies and initiatives gleaned from the FIFAfrica pre-event hosted by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). On September 24, CIPE will host a policy roundtable with public, private, and civil society stakeholders from across the continent to discuss regional opportunities for inclusive economic and entrepreneurial development in an increasingly digital future. Topics from the policy roundtable include: data flows and privacy, eCommerce and eTrade, e-payments and financial inclusion, and the future of entrepreneurship.
Following FIFAfrica, proposed initiatives and policies identified in the policy roundtable discussions and in this panel will be shared with the digital rights community and the public.
Moderator: Louisa Tomar, Global Program Officer, CIPE

  • Peter Mwencha | Africa eTrade Group, Kenya
  • Representative | CIPESA
  • Grace Githaiga | KICTANet, Kenya
  • Representative | MINT, Ethiopia

Follow the conversation using #FIFAfrica19 and #InternetFreedomAfrica.

CIPE to Preview New Policy Guide on Digital Economy at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa

Announcement |
The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) will preview a new resource titled Digital Economy Enabling Environment Guide, at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) 2018, set to take place 26–28 September, 2018, in Accra, Ghana. This preview comes ahead of a formal launch at the upcoming conference of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), on 2–4 October, 2018 in Tarrytown, New York.
The guide was developed in collaboration with the New Markets Lab (NML) and focuses on four priority topics that serve as the building blocks of digital economy: Consumer Protection, Data Protection, Cybersecurity, and Electronic Transactions (e-payments and e-signatures). The guide explains key regulatory considerations and helps policymakers, the private sector, and other stakeholders reach a shared understanding of these often complex topics in order to engage in constructive policy dialogue.
Further, the guide includes Legal Deep Dives with detailed information on the applicable international and regional frameworks; examples of different regulatory approaches used around the world; considerations for implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations; and relevant institutional frameworks that influence the digital economy.
Anna Kompanek, CIPE Director for Global Programs, will highlight the section of the guide at a FIFAfrica session on Consumer Rights Protection in the Digital Age, scheduled for 28 September. “Previewing the Digital Economy Enabling Environment Guide at FIFAfrica provides a valuable opportunity to support public-private dialogue efforts throughout the continent on issues key to shaping democratic discourse on digital economy,” she said.
Going forward, CIPE and NML will leverage this new resource in their respective work to facilitate crucial multi-stakeholder policy conversations and regulatory reforms in countries around the world.
CIPE strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform in order to expand access to opportunity for all citizens and help build democracies that deliver. By working with private sector organizations, CIPE is helping businesses find their voice in policymaking on a range of digital economy issues.
NML is a non-profit center for law, development, and entrepreneurship that houses comparative expertise and an international team of lawyers focused on socially accountable economic, legal and regulatory reform. NML sees law as a driving force that can generate entrepreneurship and economic development.