Digital Tech and Peacebuilding in West Africa

Our conclusion, in a nutshell, is that the use of technology for conflict prevention and peacebuilding in West Africa is growing and will continue to grow.

78% of survey respondents reported that they use technology for their peacebuilding work.

The most commonly used technology was social media, which was used to conduct trainings, run online campaigns for sensitization and awareness raising on various social issues, as well as for storytelling and countering harmful narratives online. Despite the opportunities these digital technologies are opening up for peacebuilders in West Africa, challenges remain in this emerging field. Poor internet connectivity and lack of skills are the two biggest challenges in using technology, which is why many respondents continue to use analogue technologies such as radio to reach those with no internet access.

Re-imagining youth engagement for peace

Social media networks, messaging applications, digital games and tech-enabled polls can all be used in a way that amplify youth representation in decision making. The gravitation of youth towards digital platforms, creates an opportunity to plug in and connect with them. “Social media is where they (youth) can be found”, as one participant put it. The content youth share in online conversations creates an opportunity for peacebuilders to understand their needs, desires, hopes, worries and perceptions. Furthermore, digital tools create opportunities and spaces where youth themselves can connect across geographies and mobilize towards a common goal.

Strengthening early warning systems

Early warning systems are not new to West African peacebuilders. From the region-wide ECOWAS Early Warning and Response Network (ECOWARN) to localized systems run by individual organizations, early warning and early response (EWER) systems have been a part of the peacebuilding infrastructure in several countries in West Africa. These systems have embraced the functions of technology to gather and analyze early warning information for conflict insights and trends. Digital technologies make available new information that existed in these conflict contexts but was too costly for peacebuilders to gather and analyze. Digital technologies can also be applied in response processes to supplement offline engagement.

Countering harmful online narratives

Across West Africa, harmful content on digital platforms is becoming increasingly visible in the forms of misinformation, rumors and hate speech. Peacebuilders are realizing that a collaborative approach with key actors on digital spaces such as social media influencers to deliver alternative narratives, allows them to access insights and audiences that they would otherwise find challenging to reach.

Digital mediation

Digital mediation programs were the least common among the four themes covered in these consultations, due to some of the challenges presented below. We found no examples of digital mediation in West Africa, the closest was a consultation process: in 2020 Build Up ran an entire participatory research process in Burkina Faso on conflict and resilience drivers over WhatsApp.

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Build Up

Build Up

Build Up transforms conflict in the digital age. Our approach combines peacebuilding, participation and technology.