Ghana’s Minister for planning, Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, has indicated that, the spate of collecting and retrieving personal data is evolving, and therefore posing effective data management challenges especially in the quest to addressing issues of unauthorised and inappropriate use of personal data.

He emphasised that, today, data has become the bedrock of the rapidly changing world providing citizens with opportunities and as well as with challenges. Saying, “Data protection issues are also human right issues.”

Prof. Gyan-Baffuo, challenged that, “How then do we protect fundamental human rights as enshrined in our various national constitutions while at the same time guaranteeing one’s right to information?”

The Minister further disclosed that, inadequate expertise was one of the top challenges in the Africa region. This he said was why the Africa region has been slow in enacting relevant data protection laws and the establishment of supervisory authorities.

He also disclosed that, of the current fifty five countries in the Africa region, just about sixteen have passed a data protection law, which he said was very discouraging and needed to be looked at with keen interest.

Adding that, fifty three countries outside Europe including four African countries, Tunisia, Cape Verde, Senegal and Mauritius, have acceded the convention. Morocco has been invited to accede. And Ghana, he said, has observed status and was currently preparing to accede the convention.

He was speaking as the representative of the Vice President of Ghana, Dr. Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia, at the opening plenary session of the 1st Africa Region Data Protection and Privacy Conference at the Accra International Conference Centre, on Wednesday 26th June, 2019.

A Deputy Minister for Communications in charge of data protection, Vincent Sowah Odotei, and MP for La Dadekotopon, representing the Minister for Communications Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, emphasized on the need to protect the personal data of Africans,
by the constitution just like their fundamental human rights.

Indicating that, though protection of personal data and privacy of individuals has been a global challenge, African countries needs to strategize and enact laws that will protect the data of governmental institutions and citizens.

He disclosed that, Ghana was making strides in protecting the data of its citizens during this era of unprecedented cybercrimes.

“President Akufo-Addo is working tirelessly to digitize services in the country, however, he is also calling for rigorous measures to ensure that the valuable data digitization generated is protected. Ghana is collaborating with stakeholders such as the Council of Europe, US Security government Initiative, Commonwealth and other international organizations to implement other initiatives to help curb cybercrime.” He noted.

The Minister also encouraged the public to know their rights to privacy, and the need to protect it whilst data controllers were equally being educated on how to handle the data they generate or collect from citizens.

In her remarks, Ms. Patricia Adusei-Poku, the executive director of the Ghana’s Data Protection Commission, and the Vice president of of the African Data Protection Authorities, noted that, “Africa is an area of concern to the world and we the experts in Africa are engaging with each other to enable international corporation on this and to enable the empowerment of individuals, so you can exercise your rights.”

She further stressed that, data protection laws were all over the world, however, out of the fifty five countries, only approximately fifteen have passed the data protection law.

The Extractive Director reemphasized that, “So we have a big challenge on our hands in Africa to encourage more African countries to pass the law, because without a law, it’s hard to engage with other states who do not have role or a control in place to protect us as we move around not only physically, but as our soft version in digital forms… are being moved and manipulated across borders at the pace of light and at the click of a button.”

She however, underscored the need to come out with an actionable outcomes that Africa will be looking forward for, at the end of this conference.

His Lordship Justice Gabriel Pwamang, who represented Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, also indicated that, “We are well aware that the development of our continent must be done in a manner that upholds the law and the key principles of respect for the rights of citizens and individuals which are enshrined in most of the constitutions of the African countries.”

Adding that, “As we continue to enjoy the advancement of technology, we have to put in place measures to ensure that, the benefits are clear and supportive of the rights of the citizens. A conference of this nature is an ample testimony of our efforts to find the means to ensure that, digitization is on the ticking in a manner that is responsive of our digital journey, so that we do not infringe on the rights of individuals.”

The conference which was started on Monday 24th June, 2019, and expected to end on Friday 28th June, 2019, was dubbed, “A conference in Africa by African Authorities focuses on Africa.”

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