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Regional Overviews

AFRICA: Regional Overview

More than one-quarter (28%) of the population of Africa live in a country which saw significant declines freedom of expression scores during one of our key timeframes over the last decade.

Table 17: Average scores for Africa, 2018

Theme Score
Civic Space 0.43
Digital 0.43
Media 0.45
Protection 0.41
Transparency 0.42
Freedom of Expression 0.42

Table 18: Top and bottom five scores for Africa, 2018

Country Score
Ghana 0.78
Senegal 0.75
Benin 0.74
Botswana 0.72
Namibia 0.72
Regional average 0.42
Sudan 0.09
Burundi 0.06
Equatorial Guinea 0.04
South Sudan 0.02
Eritrea 0.01

Figure 8: 

Note: Fig 8 : covers average thematic scores for Africa.


Most African countries are technically democratic, and almost all have national constitutions that guarantee citizens’ right to freedom of expression. However, many democracies are crumbling into autocracies, and there remains a tendency of silencing critical voices and controlling the flow of information through a broad range of means.

Across the continent, ageing dictators spent 2018 clinging to power, shifting constitutional term limits, crushing discussion and activism, and consolidating power in questionable elections. Security and intelligence forces are often the perpetrators of violations of expression rights, but politicians across the political spectrum are complicit in both legal and illegal restrictions on freedom of expression across the continent.[1]

New laws that aim to police the online world pose serious threats to freedom of expression, as do administrative laws and regulations, which use tax and licensing structures to target small and independent outlets.

Africa experienced ripples from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with links made between the scandal and election campaigns in both Nigeria and Kenya.[2]

Close to one-third of freedom of expression (FOE) violations recorded during 2018 were physical attacks, while over a quarter were arrests and detentions. There were 11 FOE-related killings in 2018; eight of the victims were journalists. Extremely few of these incidents were met with any form of remedial action.

Somalia and Nigeria recorded the highest number of FOE violations (19 each), followed by Ghana (18) and Guinea (17).[3] West Africa, in particular, saw a rise in FOE violations during 2018 as compared to 2017.[4]

There were some bright spots, however; see Ethiopia and Angola .


[1] Africa Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), Annual Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa Report 2018, available at

[2] Carole Cadwalladr, ´Cambridge Analytica was offered politicians’ hacked emails, say witnesses’, The Guardian, 21 March 2018, available at; Abdi Latif Dahir, ‘“We’d stage the whole thing”: Cambridge Analytica was filmed boasting of its role in Kenya’s polls’, Quartz Africa, 20 March 2018, available at

[3] AFEX, Annual Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa Report 2018, available at

[4] Media Foundation for West Africa, Freedom of Expression Monitor January–December 2018, available at