This page offers a high-level overview of the data protection landscape in Ethiopia, including any relevant laws, the challenges in implementing those laws, political willingness, and ongoing advocacy efforts.
There is no overarching data protection law in force in Ethiopia at the moment.
Related Draft Legislations
An expert group under the Ministry of Innovation and Technology prepared a Draft Proclamation on Personal Data Protection in 2019. There haven’t been any public debates on the Draft so far. The expectation is that more consultations and public discussions will be arranged to discuss the draft with stakeholders.
Features of the Draft
The Draft proposes the establishment of a Data Protection Commission which will have the sole responsibility of implementing data protection and data privacy rights
Related and Sector-Specific Laws
Certain other laws contain clauses that have implications for data protection and privacy issues. These include:
The Communication Service Proclamation 1148/2019
The Civil Code of 1960
The Criminal Code, 1957
Federal Tax Administration Proclamation No. 983/2016
Predominant Hurdles In Implementation
Currently, there is limited technical understanding and knowledge with regard to data protection among the larger public and civil society organisations alike. Even regulators often have difficulties understanding the principles and norms of data protection and how to apply them.
Key National Issues in the Field
The legal issues governing surveillance and interception of communications by public authorities are central to the data protection and privacy debate in Ethiopia. Public authorities are allowed search and seizures of personal data without warrant and judicial oversight under the Computer Crime Proclamation.
In addition, difficulty of access to information in general in the country may pose a challenge to enforcing the rights of data subjects seeking access to information from data controllers once the data protection bill is passed.
Current Political Climate
Ethiopia recently held general elections in June 2021. While the new administration seems more open to giving space for rights advocacy of rights groups and citizens, it remains unclear how this will impact digital rights progress. There has been significant political upheaval in the country with events like the dissolution of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
When it comes to data protection, the current set of policymakers formulate their positions on the basis of security rather than personal and individual rights.
With a lack of reporting on and understanding of data protection issues, advocacy efforts need to start at the fundamental level of establishing that individuals have a right to protection of their personal data.
The current advocacy focus is on capacity building for civil society organisations, increasing awareness among the general public, and providing research inputs to policymakers.
There is a judicial reluctance to enforce fundamental rights, which poses a challenge to advocacy efforts.