Surveillance Law in Africa: a review of six countries

The practice of mass surveillance exists in direct tension with the fundamental human right to privacy. The universal right to privacy is based on the belief that individuals have reason to value freedom from unwarranted monitoring by the state, corporations or other actors.

States may have a legitimate interest in carrying out targeted surveillance to protect citizens from criminality or terrorism. However, the Snowdon revelations made clear that states are engaged in mass surveillance that often falls outside existing legal frameworks. It can be argued that citizens are less able to defend themselves from such invasive mass surveillance in countries with weak legal protections, check and balances, or independent oversight.

This research will review how surveillance is legally defined, limited, and subject to oversight in six African countries: Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and South Africa. The scope will include existing legal instruments, experience of recourse, jurisprudence, and efficacy in balancing the right to privacy with the need for surveillance. The draft legal instrument being developed by the UN as well as existing law in OECD countries will serve as points of comparison. The study will generate recommendations for policy, practice and further research.

This surveillance research forms part of IDS work with the African Digital Rights Network.



Project details

start date
1 April 2021
end date
31 October 2021


Supported by
The Omidyar Group

About this project


Image of Amy Cowlard

Amy Cowlard

Senior Project Support Officer

David Haddock

Project Support Officer

Image of Tony Roberts

Tony Roberts

Research Fellow

Abrar Mohamed Ali

Mohamed Farahat

Ridwan Oloyede

Grace Mutung’u

Recent work