African Leaders Strive to Integrate the Digital Economy with...

1 month ago Enterprise Security

African Leaders Strive to Integrate the Digital Economy with Cybersecurity

Enterprise Security Magazine |

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Africa must take full advantage of the digital revolution to empower its citizens and enhance transparency in government and the private sector. This will not happen until data is stored in safe and trusted systems that protect the privacy and are difficult for criminals to breach.

FREMONT, CA: It is anticipated that Africa's internet economy will be worth USD 180 billion, and that figure will increase to USD 712 billion by 2050. African governments and their partners are developing new initiatives to quickly connect an estimated 700 million disconnected Africans and address speed and cost concerns for those with access to ensure these forecasts come true.

Positively, several recent commitments have been made to improve the cybersecurity environment in Africa. Countries like Ghana are making investments in strong cybersecurity infrastructure, and they may soon serve as models for other West African and European nations. In addition, 14 African countries have national cybersecurity strategies, and four more are working on draught laws in this area.

Collaborations on capacity development and building at the regional and subregional levels, as well as the creation of frameworks, indicate efforts to put the continent in a better position to handle cyber threats. As an illustration, the African Union (AU) established the Malabo Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection in 2014, yet only 8 of the 54 African nations had a national strategy for cybersecurity as of 2018.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the AU also held the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) in 2019. With more than 140 members and partners from all around the world, the GFCE is a multi-stakeholder community that aims to increase global cyber capability and expertise. Africa is utilising a significant international capacity development paradigm through this process to increase cybersecurity capabilities on the continent.

While national and regional frameworks for addressing cyber threats on the continent are noteworthy, they fall far short. All of the continents are affected by the weaknesses in a single system, network, or organisation. African leaders must quadruple their efforts and invest more money in cybersecurity projects that strengthen infrastructure, raise awareness, and engage in global strategy. Additionally, they must address the issues and/or reservations raised by the low number of nations that have ratified international agreements on digital policy.

The RECs and the AU have recently taken steps in the direction of greater cooperation in the domain of digital governance and policy. African nations differ significantly from one another in terms of their levels of digitalization, their levels of the cultural and legal variety, and their capacities in terms of law, policy, and technology. Additionally, tensions between nations are unavoidable, even concerning digital issues. However, there is also a strong awareness that multilateral, multistakeholder cooperation is necessary to address digital concerns. Additionally, efforts at increasing regional and continental harmonisation and integration of digital policy issues have been growing.

The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (DTS), which asserts that there is a need for Africa to make digitally-enabled socio-economic development a high priority, was accepted by the AU as the overall strategy to direct the continent's digital transformation throughout 2020–2030. It aims to create an integrated and inclusive digital society and economy in Africa that improves the quality of life for African citizens, strengthens the current economic sector, enables its diversification and development, and ensures continental ownership with Africa as a producer and not just a consumer in the global economy. African leadership in the digital transformation process, which is "directed and owned by Africa's institutions" and "rooted in Africa's realities," and solidarity among African nations are vital topics.

A key component of enhancing the digital (foreign) policy of the member nations is the harmonisation of digital policies across the many RECs. The many RECs are at varying levels of developing and harmonising their policies. Despite some encouraging developments, integrating REC strategies into national legislation continues to be a major obstacle. Overlapping memberships result in several, sometimes incompatible obligations and significant effort redundancy. The economic advantages of harmonisation for cross-border trade can only be fully realised if this is the case.

The Declaration on Internet Governance and the Development of Africa's Digital Economy also contains aspects of digital foreign policy. The declaration has several principles that might be seen as the African continent's consensus view on significant issues related to internet governance: Encouraging accessible, open, and inclusive internet governance; Maintaining open standards development methods and open internet; Enabling a universally accessible, resilient, distinctive, and interoperable internet; Promoting multi-stakeholder approaches to internet governance that are open, inclusive, participatory, transparent, collaborative, consensus-driven, and respectful of cultural, gender, and linguistic diversity. These approaches should also seek to encourage accountability and full participation of governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community, and users.

From a technological and policy standpoint, the AU and other African regional blocs must likewise give priority to creating cybersecurity expertise. Through these organisations, African nations must continue to work together for peer learning and sharing of best practices with viable external partners. Tanzania and Mauritius, which rank highly on the ITU's Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), can serve as examples. These steps will help the continent move closer to becoming the rich, viable, and cyber-safe Africa that will solidify its position as a powerful force in the global digital arena.

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