Cheryl Ankrah-NewtonBy Cheryl Ankrah-Newton|June 21, 2022|12 Minutes|In Opinion


Embracing the Metaverse


If you’ve been following my “Metaverse Chronicles” you will remember in the prelude to the last one I mentioned that I had experienced racism in a platform within VR.

Since then, I’ve had people approach me to discuss all of the drawbacks of what’s coming with Web 3.0.

However, one friend gave me some food for thought. She said “All of the films about the future and all the materials on future technologies always make us feel like humanity is doomed. We need more narratives with positive outcomes.”

I couldn’t help but agree as I like to think of myself as a glass-half full type of person.

When I began writing my next installment it was focused on mostly the negatives taking place because of that one racist encounter I had in VR. That plus most of the other information I’d been researching around the future of metaverse always seemed to be disparaging.

I was beginning to feel “ bogged down” and then I recalled my discussion with my friend. I remembered my essence. Even with everything going on in the world today I still believe our future is bright. I have to believe this for my son’s sake & for our future generations sake.

After all, we create what we believe so I decided to flip the script (literally!).

In this next installment, I examine the importance of inclusion and how Africans can influence the metaverse. I’m totally hoping and dreaming that my musings fall on the right ears and that my coming work will help open more doors for these conversations here on the Continent. Hopefully, this will help to ensure that more young African creatives are included in the shaping and building of the next iteration of the internet.


Immersive technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Augmented Reality (AR), have given us the opportunity to create three-dimensional perceptions in which one would be present physically, but in a digital space.

Taken together, these technologies make what we now commonly call the metaverse – a digital world where users interact in increasingly immersive ways.

The concept of metaverse first originated from gaming and has grown in popularity in recent years. Prominent examples of what we can consider the early versions of the metaverse include Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft.

As exciting as it is, the concept of a virtual universe raises a fair amount of cynicism as to what will follow in terms of policing it and implementing adequate security measures. Big corporations might be on the deciding end of it, but all of us have a stake in the metaverse.

Security and Policing in the Cutting-Edge Reality of Metaverse

While we have struggled desperately to tackle the security and privacy issues in our existing web technology, the emergence of metaverse is not something to oppose or fear. Rather, it is an opportunity for governments, policy makers, tech giants and the users to learn from our lessons and take a collective part in shaping a secure and inclusive virtual environment.

This means getting as many things right as we can right from the outset rather than doing damage control later.

Since the metaverse exists through written code, law enforcement officials will have the challenge of tackling a new frontier of crime in this virtual reality. Threats to users in the metaverse include image-based abuse, cyber-bullying, sexual abuse, and much more.

For example, the Web Foundation found that more than 50% of women and girls have experienced online abuse. There is also a growing body of evidence which evidences that immersive tech, such as the metaverse itself, can exacerbate this issue.

The report also details users experiencing racial slurs and homophobic comments in the virtual space.

Law enforcement and legal organizations would need to figure out how these crimes can be detected and stopped as the laws of real world are not well-placed enough to solve the wrongs in a virtual environment.

With so much happening, it is only logical to think that not only does Meta need to slow down its rush into the metaverse, but that everyone should join in the security conversation of the virtual world before we make it a big part of our existing reality.

But in order for that to happen successfully, metaverse needs to be made accessible and inclusive – a place that enables true participation.

The Principle of Universal Jurisdiction for the Metaverse and Africa’s Place in It

The principle of universal jurisdiction could be a good starting point for a discussion on the laws that will govern the metaverse.

Universal jurisdiction essentially means having a list of norms from which there should be no divergence by any user, state, corporation, or international organization. These norms can be rolled out as part of the user agreement of the metaverse.

Anyone who commits a crime in metaverse would be held accountable by the police and other public security officials working in conjunction with traditional judicial adjudicators of each state.

Metaverse should have the policing equivalent of that of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) employs.

The W3C encourages sharing of knowledge and participation that builds trust on a global scale. It influences the way internet functions – not as a business, or a government, or an institution, but rather as an independent organization that follows certain standards.

Truthfully, in the real world, it is pretty hard to effectively change – or even constantly police – individuals who are racists or homophobes. Fortunately, much can be done to limit interaction with those users in a virtual world.

Meta argues that you can report or block offensive or inappropriate users on its platform. However, we need to go a step forward and think about how AI can be employed to not only ban such users but also keep the software from penalizing innocent users as it sometimes does so right now.

An important factor in reducing racial, homophobic, and other types of harmful attacks is increasing metaverse’s diversity.

Pushing diversity in the metaverse would raise cultural awareness and the etiquettes surrounding different cultures, races, sexualities, and backgrounds. Meta could enforce brief tutorials when setting up avatars on how users can practice inclusion by learning behaviors that respect all backgrounds.

Forums can also be built to encourage interaction between individuals from varied cultural backgrounds.

Furthermore, racial slurs, swear words and other inappropriate phrases could be automatically censored without being made visible to other users through the use of AI.

Being a continent with an incomparably rich socio-cultural landscape, Africa and its creatives can play a significant role in creating a more diverse space. The African youth has a lot to bring to the table with its talent and creativity through fashion, visual arts, cultural sites, entertainment, literature, music, media, design, and much more.

Having African representation in the metaverse would not only increase the virtual space’s inclusivity but it would also serve as a lucrative opportunity for the vast continent’s creatives to use their talents and find new ways to generate revenue through NFTs and cryptocurrencies. This would, of course, have the added benefit of boosting the continent’s economy and increasing the overall opportunities available to the young people here.

But for all this to happen and for cultural diversity to take place effectively in the metaverse, it needs to be made easily accessible by everyone.

With a technological concept as promising as the metaverse, it is imperative for organizations that lead in the creation of this space to take into account the technical setbacks that users from some countries have.

Accessibility in the metaverse would mean providing an even playing field for every user globally so that everyone can contribute to the key economic driver that the metaverse is.

For instance, the metaverse economy is predicted to be $13 trillion by 2030. However, only 63% of the world’s population is connected to the internet at all. Even with states having the connectivity, high internet fees coupled with slow data speeds in developing countries, such as those in Africa, create an immense barrier for users in those areas to fully participate in the metaverse.

Therefore, effort should be made by big tech and other key players in making metaverse accessible for African people by investing in Africa’s digital infrastructure.

In conclusion, for metaverse to be safe, it has to be a collaborative environment that uses open standard protocols. Interoperability is critical since there will be no single platform governing it.

Put simply, cooperation should form the basis of metaverse’s creation instead of handing the entire control to a collection of tech companies. Every entity from lawmakers to academia to the people who will use it should be involved.

The ultimate aim of the metaverse is to blend the digital and the real world together. It’s not just here to provide an immersive gaming experience. It’s about eventually finding newer ways to experience the benefits of the online world in our daily lives.

As we continue to envision and build the metaverse, we have a responsibility to design a digital social environment that is truly inclusive, allowing everyone to create and participate, regardless of their economic situation and ability.