Book takes a look at effects of Africa’s digital activism

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By Job Mwaura

Book title: Digital Activism in the Social Media Era; Critical Reflections on Emerging Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Publisher: Springer International Publishing. (2016).

Bruce Mutsvairo’s book Digital Activism in the Social Media Era; Critical Reflections on Emerging Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa was launched last month — a novel book for a novel idea. Bruce is a former journalist with Associated Press. He is a Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University, UK, in the Department of Journalism. His research interest cuts across digital media and online socio-political cultures, particularly the role of digital media in enhancing civic participation in sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently at University of The Witwatersrand as a CODESRIA Visiting Scholar in the Department of Media Studies.

Digital Activism is a new phenomenon in Sub-Saharan Africa and the timing of this book is apt. In the last few years, we have seen a proliferation of new media in Africa, enhanced by usage of mobile phones and other Internet technologies. In this book, Mutsvairo moves his focus from the role of digital media for development to everyday usage and experience by ordinary citizens. Media coverage by western nations have majorly been focusing on the role of media during election periods in Africa and rarely focus on revolutionary usage of the new media. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have become important platforms for socio-political deliberations, mobilisation during activism and offering alternative voices away from the mainstream media agendas.

The #HealthCrisisKE movement in Kenya is one of the best examples in recent times where citizens have been successful in digital activism. The book documents and discusses a diverse perspective of digital activism in Sub-Saharan Africa. The first section of the book discusses Ethiopia’s Zone 9 bloggers, Zimbabwean Baba Jukwa, Digital Activism in Uganda and even cyber activism discussion that was followed by the sacking of Sierra Leone’s Vice President Sam Sumana on Facebook and Twitter. These cases help in explaining political engagement in mediated online communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

His second section of the book highlights the digital transformations through civic activism in the African blogosphere. As expected, South Africa’s student movements #FeesMustFall and #MustFall dominates this section which discusses transformations that have occurred as a result of digital activism. Samuel C. Kamau’s chapter in Mutsvairo’s book highlights civic engagement amongst university students in Kenya. Emerging debates on gender and LGBT occupy the last section of the book.

Digital activism in Africa is widely known to have begun during the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt. Books and other academic texts on the Arab Revolution have widely discussed the role of social media for mobilization.

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