Your Take: Wired for Freedom in Africa
As Egypt undergoes a change in power, Ghana's vice president explains how digital technology has energized the quest for change across Africa.
Watching the the Egyptian crowds as they listened to a speech by their now former president, Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, who had been in power since the assassination of Anwar El Sadat in 1981, only confirmed what is becoming more and more obvious: that for Africa there is no going back to the way things were; the only way we can move is forward. But Egypt is only the latest evidence of this trend. Any astute observer is aware that the desire for democracy is spreading through the African world like a contagion.
In 2010 there were at least a dozen presidential democratic elections in African nations, places like Guinea that hadn't had an election since 1958. In 2011 there are scheduled to be nearly two dozen presidential elections in various nations -- including Egypt, which is currently in the midst of what could most certainly be called a people's revolution.
Though the methods being employed by protesters can be alarming at times in their ferocity, the demand for freedom itself is not altogether surprising. Just as there were signs, over a half century ago, foreshadowing the collapse of colonialism on the continent, there have been signs recently pointing toward the end of an era of dictatorship. What is, however, most fascinating about this inevitable death is the pivotal as well as provocative role that digital technology is playing to bring it about.
For the most part in recent times, we Africans have taken our requests for democracy to the polls, not the streets. Unfortunately, in some nations, that has not resulted in any real change. And ultimately, that is what sparks all revolutions: the urgent, non-negotiable need for sustainable change.
When Tunisian authorities in the city of Sidi Bouzid seized Mohamed Bouazizi's unlicensed produce cart and the unemployed computer-science graduate set himself aflame, it took no time at all for that act of protest to turn into a trending topic. After Bouazizi's self-immolation, the youth in Sidi Bouzid took to the streets. Because of the broadcasts of a single satellite channel, the world watched as those young men displayed their rage and frustration -- and a hashtag was created.