Africa is a continent on the rise with the youngest population in the world. According to the 2020 Nasdaq report, some African nations have become the fastest growing economies in the world, namely Ethiopia, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, and Senegal. Technology adoption continues to rise as well, especially with regards to mobile device ownership, social media use, and the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT). Along with this rapid economic growth, comes an e-commerce industry that is poised to expand to an estimated $75 billion USD by the year 2025 according to a study by Symantec and the African Union.
With this growing prosperity and digitalization however new risks and vulnerabilities arise that could undermine the process. Among these risks is the global rise of cybercrime. In August 2020, South Africa experienced its largest-ever data leak which exposed the personal information of approximately 24 million South Africans and up to 800,000 businesses. These attacks can lead to devastating losses in business productivity, reputation, and revenue. According to the World Economic Forum, cybercrime remains one of the greatest threats to global prosperity. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a complete digital shift in 2020, amplifying these risks.
For years, donor countries and international organizations have argued that digitalization provides an opportunity for fighting poverty. However, digitalization also provides a new breeding ground for organized crime. Thus, a new dimension of social vulnerability follows in the wake of the development opportunities offered by the digital revolution. Baseline studies have already shown the gap between the development goals and intentions in donor policies and digital vulnerability and cybersecurity in developing countries. In order to be sustainable, digital development must be immediately followed by a focus on digital security.
Recognizing many of the great strides African governments and private actors have made on cybersecurity in recent years, the Global Cyber Alliance is committed to assist in guiding and strengthening their efforts to build a safe, secure, and stable digital world. Due to the borderless nature of cybercrime, many of the cybersecurity trends we see globally are also affecting Africa, including the explosion of ransomware, social media scams, and the proliferation of new malware and website vulnerabilities. However, there are a number of local specificities. For example, overall in Africa, mobile phones provide the main form of Internet access, but the digital divide across demographic groups remains considerable. Women are less likely than men to use or own digital technologies. Gaps are even larger between youth. Therefore, the Global Cyber Alliance is resolute to answer to specific needs expressed by partners with a local footprint and will be adapting its tools and practices accordingly.
Below are some of GCA’s ongoing and upcoming activities:
- The Liberia Cyber Crime Prevention and Mitigation Agency (LCCPMA)
Beginning in November 2020, GCA provided a suite of free tools that operationalize fundamental cyber hygiene controls and principles that can increase the protection and resilience of the ecosystem as a whole. In the first instance the Cybersecurity Toolkit for Small Business will be deployed across various Government Ministries, Agencies, and Commissions of the Liberian Government. In order to more broadly augment the resilience of Liberian public authorities, thus providing stability and confidence in the economy and institutions, GCA will train local trainers on its tools and support the design of a specific roadmap to help with deployment and enhance the benefits of good cyber hygiene across Liberia.
- Africa Risk Managers (ARMC)
Over the last years, the vulnerability of financial institutions to cyber attacks has become a paramount problem. Cybercrime targeting Africa is concentrated on financial services, including remittances flow, and mobile money accounts. A strong consumer protection regime is key to ensuring that expanded access to financial services benefits consumers. This will enable them to make well informed decisions on how best to use financial services, build trust in the formal financial sector, and contribute to healthy and competitive financial markets. Therefore, beginning in February 2021, GCA will support ARMC in organizing webinars to enhance the cybersecurity practices in the banking and insurance sectors.
CYBERGHANA designed and implemented cybersecurity centres across Ghana. It has received infrastructure and support from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Moving forward, GCA will support the project by providing its Cybersecurity Toolkit for Small Business and specific guidance to the targeted communities. The feedback collected from the cybersecurity centres will help inform GCA’s new tools and practices to support mobile phone users in the region.
- E-Governance and Internet Governance Foundation for Africa (EGIGFA)
The Ghana School on Internet Governance (GhanaSIG) is an annual, one week course run by EGIGFA. 2020 GhanaSIG welcomed GCA to give a presentation on DNS security and announce the worldwide launch of the DomainTrust project. To build on this momentum, priorities for 2021 involve supporting activities to deploy DomainTrust, Quad9 and DMARC in Ghana.
Serianu is a leading cybersecurity consulting firm that enables businesses to use their information assets to reduce risk. They provide education, training, and research infrastructure to enhance public and private sectors in cybersecurity preparedness. GCA and Serianu will combine their efforts to provide local private and public sector organizations with access to better cyber risk management tools. A series of webinars is in the pipeline for 2021 to raise awareness among relevant communities in Kenya on GCA tools. Serianu’s knowledge and various research will also inform the development and adaptation of GCA’s toolkits and practices to fit the needs of African SMEs.
The author, Kayle Giroud, is the Partnership and Business Development Assistant, EU and Africa, at the Global Cyber Alliance. You can follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.