Reviving Africa’s Endangered Civic Spaces

April 28th, 2021 - 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm PDT

As threats to digital rights continue, it is important to protect civil society actors who are increasingly embracing digital spaces for their work, given the closing civic spaces in many African countries. Ayeta — a toolkit named after the protective gear ancient Yorùbá warriors wore for protection against weapons during warfare — educates users about digital rights, provides digital security tips and suggests measures that can be taken against potential threats. It also includes detailed information about digital security actors, a calendar of relevant digital rights events in Africa, and links to resources – such as digital​ security case studies from selected African countries, model policy briefs and media releases, and model coalition statements. The toolkit, which is available online in English, French and Swahili, uses gamification as an opportunity to lower the learning curve, and is designed with the overarching aim of addressing the growing need to safeguard digital rights defenders, journalists, whistle blowers and other civil society actors. ‘Gbenga Sesan will discuss the background to the project, highlight the impact of such resources and speak about Paradigm Initiative’s plans to use the toolkit in its pan-African Advocacy work.

‘Gbenga Sesan is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working on digital inclusion and digital rights through its offices in Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford University. Originally trained as an Electronic & Electrical Engineer at Obafemi Awolowo University, he completed Executive Education programs at Lagos Business School, New York Group for Technology Transfer, Oxford University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Santa Clara University and University of the Pacific. ‘Gbenga’s consulting experience includes assignments completed for numerous institutions, including Microsoft, Harvard University and United Nations agencies, among others, in over 30 countries. A Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year and former member of the United Nations Committee of eLeaders on Youth and ICT, he is a CyberStewards Fellow, Crans Montana Forum Fellow, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow, Ashoka Fellow, Our Common Future Fellow and Cordes Fellow. ‘Gbenga served as a member of the Nigerian Presidential committees on Harmonization of Information Technology, Telecommunications and Broadcasting Sectors (2006) and Roadmap for the Achievement of Accelerated Universal Broadband Infrastructure and Services Provision (2013). He advised the World Health Organisation on Data Privacy in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and is currently advising the World Economic Forum on its Operationalising Trust Project, to develop rights-respecting Data Policy for businesses.

COMM230X: Digital Civil Society Speaker Series: This series provides a forum for scholars and community-based innovators to present their work, learn from those working on related issues from different disciplinary perspectives, and spark or nurture cross-disciplinary engagement around the big questions that animate the digital civil society Lab. Topics covered this quarter notably include polarization and social media, algorithmic audits, digital rights advocacy in Africa, transnational social movements, philanthropy and racial justice, misinformation and social protest.

This event is open to all members of the Stanford community and requires pre-registration with a stanford.edu email.


  • ‘Gbenga Sesan - Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, Non-Resident Fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford University