Chad has been without internet access for over 365 days. The online blackout started in March 2018 when reforms were made to the constitution to let the country’s president remain in power.
President Idriss Déby, who has been in power since 1990, will stay in power until 2033. He will be 81 years old then. He had agreed to restore term limits before the country’s election in 2016. Almost immediately after he made this pledge, Chad’s internet service was shut down.
Since March 2018, citizens of the north-central African country have not had access to social media. They cannot use Instant Messaging or social networking apps like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook. In 2016, a similar shutdown occurred that lasted for eight months. It followed disputes about the president securing a fifth term in office.
Chad is not alone. In 2019, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe have enforced an internet ban for different reasons.
Reports suggest that Internet shutdowns in almost a dozen African countries had led to a decline of more than $235 million in the country’s economy from 2015 to 2017. However, the Internet shutdown in Chad has cost their economy at least $20 million in the past year.
In 2014, Chad’s economy fell into a deep recession, and poverty rose with about 60% of its citizens living in extreme poverty. There was a fall in oil prices and weak security situation at the time too.
This news is only making international headlines a year after. This might be as a result of little or no press attention from that part of the world. This is especially as most of the citizens are cut out of the world because of the lack of internet.
Internet block in Chad
The internet block leaves Chad at a huge disadvantage. The country is presently lagging behind on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals on increasing access to information and communication technology and affordable internet. This can be found in number 9c of goals to be reached by 2020.
Before now, Chad had very low Internet penetration. Only about five per cent of the country’s population had internet access as of December 2017. This has only made it even worse. It has also been going on for a year.
A campaign launched earlier in the year on Twitter to this cause. The hashtag #MaallaGatétou, meaning “why did you cut me off,” was trending on the social networking site. Activists looking to meet with the Chadian authorities have not received any audience.