BD Insider, Letter 133

BD Insider #133 covers the Bank of Namibia's crypto stance, Uganda's controversial computer misuse law and why Nigeria's Zamfara state has suspended some media outlets

BD Insider, Letter 133
The map of Nigeria showing Zamfara state
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If you're intending to visit Uganda, this public service announcement is for you. Starting October 16, the Ugandan government introduced lockdown measures to halt the spread of Ebola in Mubende and Kassanda districts in central Uganda.

Nineteen people have died since the east African nation announced the outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever on September 20, 2022.

The Big Three!

For BD Insider #133, we'd be examining the latest tech and innovation regulations in Namibia, Uganda and Nigeria:

  • the Bank of Namibia's crypto stance
  • Uganda's controversial computer misuse law and its implications
  • why Nigeria's Zamfara state has suspended some media outlets

and other noteworthy information like:

  • the latest African Tech Startup Deals
  • BD Trivia: What can you see?
  • opportunities, interesting reads and more.

#1 The Bank of Namibia's conflating crypto stance

The News: The Bank of Namibia (BoN) has disclosed that although the Namibian Dollar is still the only recognised legal tender, merchants are allowed to accept payment in the form of cryptocurrencies.

The Bank made the disclosure during an event on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and Virtual Assets (VAs) held on September 22, 2022. Confirming the development to Benjamindada.com via email, Kazembire Zemburuka, the Director of Strategic Communications and International Relations at Bank of Namibia said that "the acceptance of VAs for the payment of goods and services remains at the discretion of any merchant and buyer willing to participate in such an exchange or trade agreement."

He added that this type of agreement can be associated with Bartering where goods or services are exchanged for other goods or services." However, Zemburuka maintained that "virtual currencies remain without legal tender status in Namibia. The Bank does not recognise the use and acceptance of virtual assets as legal tender or electronic money in Namibia."

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Sections 19 and 20 of the Bank of Namibia Act, 1997 (Act No.15 of 1997), as amended (the BoN Act) provides the Bank with the sole mandate to issue notes and coins denominated in Namibia Dollar which are legal tender in Namibia.

The BoN Act, under section 26, further recognises the South African Rand as the only additional form of legal tender in Namibia until such a date to be determined by the Namibian Minister of Finance.
A screenshot of the BoN's statement after the event in Sept. 2022

Why it matters: In 2018, the Bank disclosed that it is "strongly against the use of cryptocurrencies[pdf] as a method of payment for goods and services and the exchange to the Namibian Dollar."

This reversal according to Zemburuka is "to ensure a progressive regulatory response to the exponential growth in VAs."

He added that "the Bank of Namibia has brought VAs and VASPs under its FinTech Innovations Regulatory Framework in a phased approach, through its Innovation Hub." This is coming two months after the first Bitcoin ATM in Namibia became operational.

Johannes !Gawaxab, BoN's Governor also stated that a public consultation paper on the nation's central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) will soon be released.

Zoom out: BoN is not the first African country to have a conflating stance on cryptocurrencies. In April 2022, the Bank of Uganda instructed all licensed entities to desist from facilitating cryptocurrency transactions. However, in an interview in May 2022, the Bank said that it "hasn’t banned cryptocurrency, we have simply applied some speed brakes".

In the same month, Nigeria's Security Exchange Commission said that entities that intend to offer crypto-related services or products in Nigeria must secure a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) licence. This regulatory position contradicts the Central Bank of Nigeria's stance on cryptocurrency.


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#2 Ugandan President approves "contentious" Computer Misuse Bill

The News: Last Thursday (October 13, 2022), Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni assented to the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act 2022. The controversial Act is an amendment to the Computer Misuse Bill 2011.

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The Uganda Computer Misuse Act was enacted in 2011 to enhance safety and security in the increasingly digitised environment, including the prevention of unlawful access, abuse or misuse of information systems including computers and securing the conduct of electronic transactions.

What's the controversy?: Ordinarily, this Act intends to create a healthy digital environment to prevent national cohesion and cybercrime. However, critics say that the law has been used to suppress digital rights including free expression and access to information.

For instance, in 2019, Stella Nyanzi, a lecturer and researcher at Makerere University and activist, was convicted for publishing a poem critical of President Museveni on social media.

"Uganda is not new to regressive control of digital technologies. In 2018, the east African country introduced a tax through the Excise Duty (Amendment) Act that required users to pay a daily tax in order to access social media services. Uganda also routinely blocks access to the internet and social media. Since January 2021, Facebook has been blocked in Uganda on orders of the government," the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) said in a statement seen by Benjamindada.com.

The amended Act also promotes the adoption of penalties of a UGX 15 million ($3,900) fine, imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or both for the listed offences including sharing of "prohibited" information on a social media account of an organisation.

In August 2022, the Ugandan Ministry of Information, Communication Technology (ICT) and National Guidance called for the withdrawal of the Act, however, the parliament declined its request.

The rest of Africa: Aside from Uganda, other African countries including Nigeria and Kenya have hinted at plans to introduce retrogressive bills targeting digital rights. Unlike Uganda, former Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta declined assent to the "contentious" ICT Practitioners Bill 2020 which intends to have all local ICT practitioners licensed and registered by a council.


#3 Insecurity: Zamfara suspends media outlets, including gov't-owned NTA and FRCN

The News: The Zamfara State Government has ordered the shutting down of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Gusau and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN)'s Pride FM for allegedly violating government order and journalism practice.

Other sanctioned media organisations include: Gamji TV, Gamji FM and Al umma TV—which are privately operated.

Why?: Last Friday (October 14, 2022), the state government suspended all political activities and imposed a total lockdown in some communities due to rising insecurity in the Nigerian North Western state. However, the aforementioned media organisations reportedly covered a political gathering at the residence of an opposition governorship candidate in the state on Saturday (October 15, 2022).

According to Ibrahim Dosara, Zamfara's commissioner for information, the police have been directed to arrest and prosecute personnel of the affected stations caught violating the order.

Oppositions: The Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) have faulted the suspension. According to BON's Executive Secretary, Yemisi Bamgbose, "the power to licence or withdraw the licence of a broadcast media is vested in the National Broadcasting Commission established by an Act of Parliament."

"Even at that, the Constitution and the Act did not give any room for arbitrariness in the exercise of the power to impose sanctions talk less of closure of broadcast media on any agency or any level of government including the Federal Government, without following the laid down procedure and seeking an order from a court of competent jurisdiction," she added.

Before now: In September 2021, the National Communication Commission (NCC) ordered the suspension of telecommunication services across Zamfara and other neighbouring states "to enable relevant security agencies to carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenges in the state".

The effectiveness of communication shutdown to tackle insecurity has been ineffective, in 2013 after a similar shutdown was ordered in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, the attacks as well as misinformation intensified contrary to the initial motive of the decision.


🧩 BD Trivia

How many differences can you find between the two photos of MTN Nigeria and Intelligra executives?


💰 State of funding in Africa

Seven months after Big Cabal Media's $2.3 million seed, another African media company has raised venture capital. Stears Insights (formerly Stears Business) last week raised a $3.3 million seed. The round was led by MaC Venture Capital with participation from Serena Ventures, Omidyar's Luminate Fund.

Meanwhile, African startups jointly raised over $37.9 million last week—$25.1 million of the funds was raised by Egyptian startups. Find a detailed representation of the deals below:  

African startup deals from October 11 - 16, 2022

Get free access to our carefully-curated, real-time updated Funding Database for 2022.


📚 Noteworthy

Here are other important stories in the media:


💼 Opportunities

Jobs

Every week, we carefully curate open opportunities in Product & Design, Data & Engineering, and Admin & Growth.

Product & Design:

Data & Engineering

Admin & Growth

Other opportunities:

  • For Ghanaian startups: Applications for the next cohort of the UNICEF StartUp Lab is open. The accelerator programme supports impactful tech-driven startups in Ghana working to advance the SDGs for children and young people. Up to GHS25,000 in prototyping, funding is available for each participating startup.
  • For Nigerian final-year undergraduates and graduates: Bloomberg will be coming to Nigeria for its Africa Campus Recruiting. The recruitment process requires one to complete a HackerRank upon application submission.
  • For content creators: Apply for the World Nomads Content Creator Scholarship and stand a chance to win 1-of-4 scholarship worth over $5,000

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