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Briefing

25 Mär 2024

Big tech in Africa: Insights for investors

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As outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, investors should be using their leverage to improve company conduct and promote human rights due diligence processes to identify, prevent and mitigate salient human rights risks from materialising. The tech sector is no exception. Several key cases, including those outlined below, have the potential to change how “rights” are discussed within corporate decision-making spaces. Investor action is needed to protect people and portfolios from undue risk.

This briefing highlights the salient human rights risks relating to the tech sector in Africa. These include labour rights abuse, data privacy and hyper surveillance, discrimination, and the impacts of internet shutdowns and censorship. It links these human rights issues to material risks including legal, financial and reputations risks. It demonstrates that the assumption that investors may not expect there to be serious legal, operational and reputational risks outside of the United States or the European Union due to the supposedly little progress on litigation and corporate accountability in other jurisdictions is becoming outdated. This is evidenced by an increasing number of lawsuits, operational disruptions and moral quandaries executives are facing in relation to alleged human rights abuses by technology companies doing business in Africa. 

Further reading

Silicon Shadows: Venture capital, human rights, and the lack of due diligence

To assess the extent to which leading VC firms conduct human rights due diligence on their investments in companies developing Generative AI, Amnesty International USA and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre surveyed the 10 largest venture capital funds that invested in Generative AI companies, and the two largest start-up accelerators most actively investing in Generative AI.

Dismantling the facade: A global south perspective on the state of engagement with tech companies

Civil society organisations and individuals calling for transparency and accountability in the tech sector face unique challenges, particularly in the Global South. We spoke to groups pushing for change in this opaque sector about the challenges, tools and strategies in their work.

Financing mining for transition minerals in South Africa: Are banks doing enough on human rights?

As the race to reach net-zero intensifies, financing is pouring into South Africa's mining industry. Our analysis of the human rights commitments and actions of 15 banks revealed widespread failure to take adequate measures to avoid contributing to abuses in this particularly risky sector.