Beyond Nigeria’s GREAT Firewall Plan with China

Beyond Nigeria’s GREAT Firewall Plan with China

First, I do not believe that it would be fully executed: “Presidency Meets With China’s Cyber Regulator to Build Nigerian Internet Firewall”. (I think this certainly not true, >90% fake news.) Yet, sure, there is a possibility that Nigeria can explore how to build Nigeria’s version of the Great Firewall of China, making sure that Nigeria’s internet is disconnected from other parts of the world. And by doing that, the government of Nigeria will regulate, control and rule over the Nigerian web.

On Saturday morning between 11 am and 12 pm, as Nigerians woke up to the reality of a Twitter ban, and downloading Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access Twitter, the Nigerian government, through the office of the Presidency, reached out to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) to discuss plans to build an internet firewall, FIJ has learnt.

The government officials present at the meeting include Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff to the President, and Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture.

The internet firewall is a way of having a separate network for the Nigerian Internet that will give the government control over social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This is similar to the internet filtering system China operates, called the Great Firewall.

The reason why China’s Great Firewall works is not because it has the best technology. The reason is simple: it has a market that global technology companies want access to, and are open to do all things necessary to remain in the good books of China. Apple will remove VPN software when asked because it wants to do business in China. The same goes for the Android Play Store for China. If Apple does not see Nigeria as a market, it may not help the government. And if that is the case, a Nigerian firewall system will fail.

More so, unlike Nigeria, no lawbreaker goes free in China. Today, Nigeria negotiates with bandits and allows them to continue to operate. So, what would be different if people break the firewall rules?

For Nigeria to emulate and mimic China, it has to think beyond technology to effective prosecutorial power while deepening its market depth so that makers of technology systems will comply when they are asked to fall in line.

People break laws in Nigeria and nothing happens. In America, all the policemen will be ready to die rather than allow a criminal to have a field day. But in Nigeria, we know the forests where bad guys are, and we have done nothing! Buying Chinese technology will not change that suboptimal legal and law enforcement playbook. 

I will be watching this redesign, and depending on how it goes, I will organize a webinar on Nigeria Great Firewall and the Opportunities for Digital Startups. Yes, if Nigeria decides to block some foreign companies, some local ones will emerge. While that would be a bad idea, expect opportunities. My job is to find how to live and do business in anything my environment throws at me. If it is a bidirectional ban (allow Nigeria but block the world), expect massive shifts in local opportunities. Then, if that is the case, I will update this Harvard article – “Can African Tech Startups Succeed in a World Dominated by Facebook and Google?” Because Google and Facebook will not dominate anymore in Nigeria!

Update: The presidency has said that this is not true. But I will leave the analysis nonetheless. I never believed that it was true but wanted to use it to pass some tech perspectives.

“The story is absolutely fake, It’s a figment of the reporter’s imagination,” the Presidency said in a statement.

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