Photo of Witney Schneidman

Witney Schneidman has nearly 40 years of experience working across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Drawing on his experience in the State Department, the World Bank, think tanks and his own consulting practice, Dr. Schneidman, a non-lawyer, has advised energy, technology, consumer and health companies, among others, on projects in more than 30 African countries. He has also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, and on the Africa advisory committees in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Dr. Schneidman provides strategic advice on the varied political, economic, social and regulatory issues that are critical to companies’ success in Africa. This includes issues related to Corporate Social Responsibility, compliance, market entry and risk mitigation. He played a leading role in the passage and recent reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and was a delegate to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by President Obama during his visit to Kenya.

Dr. Schneidman chairs Covington’s Africa Practice Group and is a senior member of the firm’s Public Policy Practice Group, the International Strategy Group and the International Trade and Finance Group.

There has been a substantial increase in the use of the Internet across the African continent, aided by ongoing investment into local digital infrastructure, reduction in the associated costs, and improved user access. This has allowed both individuals, and private and public entities, the ability to access, collect, process and/or disseminate personal data more easily, which has spurred a number of African countries to enact comprehensive data protection laws and establish data protection authorities. There is also a growing perception among African countries that there is a need to protect their citizen’s personal data, to regulate how public and private entities use personal data, and to establish data protection authorities tasked with enforcing these laws.

While countries like Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa now have comprehensive data protection laws, which share some elements found in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), many of the proposed data protection laws have specific rules that are different from those in other countries in Africa. Consequently, technology companies conducting business in Africa will be required to keep abreast of the evolving regulatory landscape as it relates to data protection on the continent.
Continue Reading Tech Regulation in Africa: Recently Enacted Data Protection Laws

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has served as the cornerstone of the U.S.-Africa commercial relationship for more than two decades but it is set to expire on September 30, 2025. While the legislation’s unilateral trade preferences have provided economic benefits for countries across sub-Saharan Africa, AGOA as a whole remains underutilized. To ensure continuity in U.S-African trade ties, the United States must grapple with the legislation’s potential reauthorization now, with a particular focus on how the utilization of AGOA might be improved.

Just a renewal of AGOA won’t be enough to achieve this ambitious vision, though. Instead, the Biden administration should double-down on its partnership with AGOA beneficiaries and ensure that each country makes greater use of the program, including through National AGOA Strategies, in a manner that promotes regional and continental value chains.

Continue Reading How the Biden Administration can Make AGOA More Effective

If there is a silver lining to most crises, the accelerated move toward digitized commerce globally and in Africa may be one positive outcome of the COVID-enforced lockdown. It is welcome news there that the South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies (“Minister”) published the Draft National Data and Cloud Policy (in Government Gazette no. 44389) (“Draft Policy”) for public comment. The Draft Policy seeks to create an enabling environment for the provision of data and cloud services in an effort to move “towards a data intensive and data driven South Africa” that ensures social and economic development and inclusivity. The Draft Policy affects a few key areas, which we briefly highlight below.

The objectives of the Draft Policy are to:

  • Encourage universal access to broadband connectivity, along with access to data and cloud services;
  • Eliminate regulatory barriers and enable competition in the data and cloud sector;
  • Implement effective measures to ensure the security of cloud infrastructure;
  • Create institutional mechanisms to govern data and cloud services;
  • Support the development of small, medium, and micro enterprises (“SMMEs”);
  • Promote research, innovation, and technological developments in relation to cloud;
  • Increase the government’s capacity to deliver relevant data and cloud-based services to the public;
  • Promote data sovereignty and security with respect to South African data; and
  • Encourage alignment with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (“4IR”), the OECD Framework and standards adopted by the European Union.

Draft Policy proposal relating to digital infrastructure

The Draft Policy recognizes that digital transformation in South Africa relies upon further developing electronic communication networks, mobile communication networks, and cloud and data infrastructure services in the country.

In relation to universal access and service delivery obligations, the Draft Policy recommends a government-backed digital platform and for all South African citizens to be provided with an online identity in order to receive services more easily.

The Draft Policy discusses the need for a Wireless Open Access Network (“WOAN”) “to extend the digital infrastructure footprint and services” across the country. The Draft Policy also refers to various measures to ensure the deployment of electronic communication infrastructure, which will help to bridge the digital divide by ensuring universal access to cloud and data infrastructure services for all South Africans.

The Draft Policy also proposes that existing networks of state-owned enterprises, such as Sentech and Broadband Infraco, be consolidated to form a State Digital Infrastructure Company (“SDIC”), which will provide network connectivity for the State.
Continue Reading Overview of South Africa’s Draft National Data and Cloud Policy

Can African governments head off a sustained spike in the spread of COVID-19 and recover economically in 2021? How will the Biden administration engage the continent? Will companies implement more effective due diligence efforts in their supply chains to prevent human rights abuses? What impact will efforts to battle corruption and mitigate climate change have in the coming year? Covington’s Africa Practice offers insights on these questions and other key issues that will define 2021 on the continent.

COVID-19 Recovery: Since Africa confirmed its first COVID-19 case in February 2020, every country has been affected, leading to over 100 million cases and two million deaths. The World Health Organization applauded African governments for their swift responses which curtailed wide-spread infections but contributed to the region’s first economic recession in twenty-five years. Over the last month, Africa has been hit hard by a second wave of COVID-19. Daily case rates have increased to almost twice the rates in July and August 2020, prompting South Africa, among other nations, to re-impose severe measures aimed at preventing deaths.
Continue Reading Top Issues to Watch in Africa: 2021

A growing number of African countries have begun to ease COVID-19 related regulatory restrictions. Some countries, such as Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal resumed international flights in August, while other countries like South Africa and Nigeria are only now opening their borders. For a continent that slipped into recession for the first time in a quarter century due to the pandemic, the reopening is a welcome step toward restoring economic growth across Africa.

This is a significant development considering the swift action that many African governments took in the early days of the pandemic. Many African nations introduced some of the world’s most stringent regulations that placed restrictions on the movement of people domestically and halted international travel from high-risk areas, including Asia, Europe, and the United States. The World Health Organization has praised Africa’s coronavirus response, attributing it to the significant decrease in infection rates over the past few months. Given the relatively low number of infections, a number of government’s across the continent have begun easing COVID-19 related restrictions and re-opening economies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control, the number of daily confirmed cases has been on the decline for about two months, with the continent accounting for just under 5 percent of cases globally and 3.6 percent of deaths, from a population of more than one billion people.
Continue Reading African governments ease COVID-19 restrictions and reopen economies

If COVID-19 spreads across Africa, it would not only be a human catastrophe for the continent, but one that threatens the Northern Hemisphere with future outbreaks and further human and economic losses. What is true in the United States, where people in poor and minority neighborhoods are dying in disproportionate numbers, is true for the

As part of his ongoing response to the COVID-19, President Ramaphosa announced on April 21 that the South African Government was launching a further R500 billion (approximately $26.3 billion) social and economic stimulus package – the biggest ever once-off stimulus injection in South African history. The President described this giant stimulus as constituting the second

On 6 April, 2020, we published an article outlining South Africa’s initial economic response in support of its already ailing economy against the adverse economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.  Two weeks have passed since we first published that article, and we think it is prudent to provide this follow-up, outlining the latest developments in


As a complement to our March 26, 2020 blog “Covington’s Ability to Help Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa,” you may access the audio of our briefing call here.

Key takeaways from the briefing can be accessed here.

With African governments increasingly taking strong actions to impede the spread of the COVID-19 virus,