Africa: Can a strong cybersecurity strategy be an engine for growth?

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Cybercrime was not widely talked about in Africa up until recently, even though, Sub-Saharan Africa is often presented as particularly vulnerable to online attacks. cybersecurity expert Franck Kié believes that if the issue was tackled head on, it could become an engine for growth.

Analyst Franck Kié, founder and general commissioner of the Cyber Africa Forum, thinks cybersecurity was not a hot topic on the African scene despite the threat because African countries face other emergencies.

Franck Kié: There are other issues in Africa that are also quite important, economic issues, health issues. And it is true that cybersecurity was not necessarily a priority for African leaders a few years ago. Nevertheless, with the acceleration of digitalization, Covid 19, which has reinforced the digital uses of everyday life, cybersecurity is becoming a crucial element for our leaders. 

Online scams, mobile transactions or fears of large-scale attacks, threats are numerous. A 2021 study by Deloitte experts found that 40% of African companies, all sectors combined, have recorded a rising number of incidents.

Franck Kié: All sectors are at risk, but cyber attackers in general love soft spots, if I may say so. Sectors such as financial institutions, for obvious reasons. There are also e-commerce companies that are sometimes victims of cybercrime. And then there is the government sector, which also suffers from attacks. However, I also talk a lot with clients or contacts who are in fields such as energy and services, who are also facing more and more cyber attacks.

And contrary to what one might think, cyber attackers are increasingly based on the continent and use increasingly sophisticated methods.

The multiplication of targeted attacks has pushed authorities across Africa into stepping up their efforts to structure their online defense systems.

Franck Kié: The lack of data centers in Africa is often criticized. Because when we talk about digital sovereignty here, we say that Africa hosts only 1.3% of the world's data centers. An Ivorian operator, in partnership with a foreign operator, is proposing a mini data center solution covering five hectares and soon 10 hectares, to be able to host this data locally. So means are beginning to be implemented, local national operators are starting to work here. This is where it really makes sense to talk about digital sovereignty. 

Cybercriminality is extremely costly. Africa spent about four billion dollars in 2020. And that figure is considered an underestimation.

Franck Kié:  When we see that cybercrime can cost almost 10% of Africa's GDP, I think that, by fighting against cybercrime, by strengthening data protection, by having this digital sovereignty, the data that we can preserve and protect can allow us to be more productive and to be a growth lever for the African continent. 

The_founder and general commissioner of the Cyber Africa Forum advocates for a collaboration on the continental level in order to fight the rising threat of cybercrime. A better integration of the youth, the largest digital consumer group, is also a priority.

Franck Kié: We are very happy and also very proud to see the enthusiasm, to see the commitment of people, to see young people getting involved, taking their destiny in their hands to have a real impact on the Africa of tomorrow. And we will continue to go closer and to bring these issues to the fore..

The call I want to make is to ask decision makers to really make cybersecurity a priority for their organizations.

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