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14 July 2014


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African Union Adopts Convention on Cyber Security

The African Union (AU) has adopted the “African Union Convention on Cyberspace Security and Protection of Personal Data” at its 23rd Ordinary Session in Malabo. Changes made to the previous draft convention are still unclear as the final text is not yet available to the public.1

According to an official press release of 30 June 2014, the long-awaited “African Union Convention on Cyberspace Security and Protection of Personal Data” has been adopted among a number of other legal instruments at the 23rd Ordinary Session of the AU.2 The semi-annual summit was held from 20-27 June in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and brought together an Assembly comprising the heads of state and government of the African Union.

Based on the latest draft, the convention addresses three main areas: (1) electronic transactions, (2) personal data protection, (3) cyber security and cybercrime.3 The treaty was first drafted in 2011 and previous versions of the document were criticised mainly by the private sector, civil society organisations, and advocates of privacy who reportedly had limited influence on its development.4 The convention was expected to be adopted in the 22nd AU summit in January 2014, but the process was postponed as many opposed the treaty claiming that it included provisions which would endanger privacy or limit the freedom of speech (see INCYDER news item). To review the convention in light of the criticism, the AU held a meeting of experts in May 2014.5

As the amended text of the treaty has not yet been released to the public, it is not possible to assess whether substantial changes have been made to the draft. It seems that the focus has shifted towards data protection as the latest available version of the draft was called the “African Union Convention on the Confidence and Security in Cyberspace”.6 According to this draft, the Convention will enter into force 30 days after the 15th instrument of ratification or accession is deposited.

AU