An African defense against dishonesty

In Ghana, countering cyberthreats and disinformation starts with civic unity and strong democratic virtues.

A fashion retailer in Ghana takes a picture of second-hand jeans for online resale.

There have been more than 50 documented campaigns of disinformation in Africa in recent years, directly affecting nearly every country on the continent. Most have come from external sources like Russia and China seeking influence and control of strategic natural resources – although Africa’s authoritarian regimes have been prolific falsifiers, too. “The objective is less to convince as to confuse citizens,” the Africa Center for Strategic Studies noted last year. Another goal: undermine democracy. 

One country gaining notice for how it is strengthening its digital defenses is Ghana. It is one of a handful of African countries with a national cybersecurity strategy able to track and respond to digital threats, including disinformation. The West African country jumped 40 places in the Global Cybersecurity Index in just three years, ahead of Ireland and New Zealand. 

The strength of Ghana’s approach is a commitment to civic unity and freedom of expression – democratic principles that face rigorous challenges around the world as countries come to grips with the free flow of information via social media. In Ghana, cybersecurity policy is under civilian leadership and oversight. Businesses and the banking sector participate in monitoring and responding to threats. Judges and prosecutors have been specially trained to assess digital evidence.

Those measures are particularly noteworthy in Africa where only two of 54 countries have laws pertaining specifically to disinformation. Still, the laws have also raised concerns among media and human rights experts for the restrictions and penalties they impose. In 2021, a total of 34 African countries shut down the internet nationwide 182 times. Ghana, meanwhile, ranks third among African countries in internet freedom, its government constrained by law from censoring content and media content. 

“Ghana has placed a citizen-centric, multistakeholder approach at the core of its efforts to address the country’s cybersecurity challenges,” wrote Kenneth Adu-Amanfoh, chairman of the Accra-based Africa Cybersecurity and Digital Rights Organization, in an essay for the Africa Center. “This has enabled Ghana to build cyber capacity in a transparent manner that has helped reinforce trust between government and citizens.” 

A citizen-centered approach to countering disinformation – instead of, for instance, mandating or urging content moderation on social media platforms – has proved effective elsewhere. In 2007, for example, the tiny Baltic state of Estonia came under a withering cyberattack on government and public websites, email servers, and the banking sector. Linked to Russia, the incident bore the hallmarks of a strategy that Moscow has since deployed both internally and externally to further its interests.

Since then, Estonia has become a model for civic media literacy and “digital competency” in an age of mass disinformation. Public schools teach students how to question critically what they see on their cellphones and computer screens. Those lessons are woven into every subject, from math to art.

“The purpose of education is to support students and help them become a person who adequately perceives the environment around them and critically understands and evaluates information,” Britt Järvet, a strategic planning adviser in Estonia’s education ministry, told the BBC last year.

The disinformation campaigns that have shaken democracies, including the United States, in recent years have shown that lies require broad and willing participation.

Ghana now has a different message: that the slings and arrows of false content cannot harm societies united in digital discernment.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to An African defense against dishonesty
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today