Digital Migration and the Democratization of Africa’s Information Space

February 14, 2019
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm

about the event

As numerous sub-Saharan African countries make the switch from analog to digital broadcasting, regulators, governments, and policymakers have largely failed to consider how the digital migration process will impact censorship, media ownership, and access to information—and there is already cause for concern. The majority of African countries have designed digital migration policies that establish governmental monopolies of broadcast signal distribution platforms. A worrisome number of countries have selected Chinese companies affiliated with the Communist Party of China to build and manage these platforms. It is critical to understand how this transition will affect the integrity of the African media space and to design interventions to mitigate the democratic degradation that could result from it. In his presentation, Mr. George Sarpong examined the approaches to digital migration on the continent, explained the legal and regulatory fault lines, and explored how migration strategies could undermine democratic principles if governments, civil society, and the international community do not address fundamental policy questions. Comments by Dr. Nicholas Benequista followed.


George Sarpong, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow


with comments by

Nicholas Benequista, Research Manager and Editor, Center for International Media Assistance


moderated by

Sally Blair, Senior Director of Fellowship Programs, National Endowment for Democracy


about the speakers

Mr. George Sarpong is a lawyer, journalist, and recognized industry leader in media and communications policy in Ghana. He currently serves as executive secretary of Ghana’s National Media Commission, which oversees more than 360 radio stations, 80 registered newspapers, 25 television channels, and various online publications. As executive secretary, he initiates and implements policies to ensure free, responsible, pluralistic, and diverse media and works to address threats to media freedom and development. Mr. Sarpong also spearheads several civil society initiatives. He is the founder and Chair of the Board of the Media and Governance Institute, and in 2001, he founded the Youth Network for Human Rights and Democracy (you-net) to train young Ghanaians in leadership and good governance. Additionally, in 2010 he set up the Party Youth Forum to foster peaceful cooperation among youth from different political parties.

Dr. Nicholas Benequista is the research manager and editor at the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), a think-tank unit at NED dedicated to strengthening efforts around the world to build vibrant and pluralistic media systems that can sustain democratic politics. He was previously a foreign correspondent based in Ethiopia and has done extensive research in Eastern Africa and the Horn on media, citizenship, and accountability.


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Image Credit: Shutterstock/Anton Balazh