From an African perspective, internet governance requires not only an understanding of the variability in access to and use of the internet across the continent, but also an understanding of the disparities between developed and developing countries’ abilities to effectively participate in global internet governance debates. Few developing countries participate in these debates, and even fewer are active in agenda-setting for global internet governance.
This paper seeks to understand how these factors transect with the notion of multistakeholder participation as a form of governance for internet policymaking, which is often informed by assumptions from more mature markets and Western democracies. It does so by exploring the evolution of multistakeholder participation through mapping the main international and regional instruments of the internet governance ecosystem in Africa. It critically assesses the ability of current multistakeholder initiatives to provide Africans with a compass to guide them through the miasma of cybercrime, political surveillance, censorship and profiteering that threaten the openness of the internet. The paper also highlights the participatory and accountability gaps in the current status quo, ultimately asking what solutions can be devised to enhance the participation of African stakeholders in internet governance.