China and the african internet: perspectives from Kenya and Ethiopia
Through the lens of China in Africa, this paper explores the transformations in the relationship between the Internet and the state. China’s economic success, impressive growth of Internet users and relative stability have quietly promoted an example of how the Internet can be deployed within the larger political and economic strategies of developing states, moving beyond the democratization paradigm promoted in the West. New evidence suggests that this model is becoming increasingly popular, but it is not clear why and how it is spreading. Through a case study comparison of an emerging democracy, Kenya, and a semiauthoritarian country, Ethiopia, where China has recently increased its involvement in the communications sector, this paper investigates whether and how the ideas of state stability, development and community that characterize the strategies pursued by the Chinese government are influencing and legitimizing the development of a less open model of the Internet. It analyses how new ideas, technologies and norms integrate with existing ones and which factors influence their adoption or rejection. It is based on fieldwork conducted in Ethiopia and in Kenya between 2011 and 2013, where data was collected through mapping Internet related projects involving Chinese companies and authorities, analysing Internet policies and regulations, and interviewing officials in Ministries of Communication, media lawyers, Internet activists, and Chinese employed in the media and telecommunication sector in Kenya and Ethiopia.