Opinion & analysis

Navigating Technology's Role in African Democracy: Reflections from Luminate's Partners Convening

Earlier this year, Luminate convened up to 40 of our Africa partners in Kenya for a week-long meeting to foster learning, collaboration, and impact.

The convening was co-created with our partners in response to their call for intentional space to connect with one another and for knowledge sharing. With over 80 people in attendance, Luminate’s Africa partners built relationships and held important conversations to optimise for impact, especially regarding the increasing influence of technology on their work to improve the democratic governance space in Africa.

The convening offered sessions in organisational development, learning, and impact, innovative programme design, strategic communications, and fundraising. Together with Luminate staff, our partners from Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa reflected on cross-cutting issues on the continent, such as the shrinking civic space globally and Africa in particular. Throughout the sessions, partners also reflected on the multifaceted role of technology in society.

Our partners’ work in Africa is indeed enhanced by technology. From building campaigns, creating data analysis platforms, and innovating in investigative reporting and storytelling, many organisations rely on technology for impact. In the same breath, technology poses unique risks across the continent, as powerful institutions and individuals leverage technology for surveillance and cyberattacks intended to undermine those working to drive positive change.

Big Tech platforms are implicated in harmful labour practices in Africa. Siasa Place, a Luminate partner, recently drew attention to this issue in Kenya, demonstrating how civil society groups can hold powerful tech companies accountable for their actions. Some Luminate partners also work to highlight tech platforms’ failure to meaningfully address polarisation, misinformation, and disinformation perpetuated on their platforms, especially during critical democratic moments. Through this gathering, some of our partners discussed how their work has been impacted, and could potentially be impacted, by these developments.

Luminate’s work in Africa and globally is influenced by our partners’ deep knowledge of the field, and through our beyond-the-grant support to our partners, we are able to co-curate solutions to some of the most pressing needs they identify. 

Our convening in Africa further demonstrates the need for cross-border collaborations among our partners and other changemakers, and the need for more human-centered approaches to the social impact work they do. The convening affirmed our approach around systems change and the need to take an ecosystems view to funding the field. 

At Luminate, we remain committed to being an ecosystems funder by supporting a vibrant civil society ecosystem that is positioned to ensure people can fully participate in civic and political life, can safely challenge power, and can access accurate, trustworthy information.