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

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Until recently, cybercrime was not widely discussed in Africa, even though sub-Saharan Africa is often portrayed as particularly vulnerable to online attacks. Cybersecurity expert Franck Kié believes that if the problem were tackled head-on, it could become a driver of growth.

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

Franck Kie: There are other problems in Africa which are also quite important, economic problems, health problems. 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 daily life, cybersecurity is becoming a crucial element for our leaders.

Online scams, mobile transactions or fears of large-scale attacks, the threats are numerous. A 2021 study by Deloitte experts found that 40% of African businesses across all sectors experienced an increasing number of incidents.

Franck Kie: All sectors are at risk, but cyber attackers in general like weak points, if I may say so. Sectors such as financial institutions, for obvious reasons. There are also e-commerce companies that sometimes fall victim to cybercrime. And then there is the government sector, which also suffers from attacks. However, I also speak a lot with clients or contacts who are in fields like energy and services, which are also increasingly facing cyberattacks.

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

The proliferation of targeted attacks has prompted authorities across Africa to intensify their efforts to structure their online defense systems.

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

Cybercrime is extremely costly. Africa spent about four billion dollars in 2020. And this figure is considered an underestimate.

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

The_Founder and Commissioner General of the Cyber ​​Africa Forum advocates for continental level collaboration to combat the growing threat of cybercrime. Better integration of young people, the largest group of digital consumers, is also a priority.

Franck Kie: 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 into their own hands to have a real impact on the Africa of tomorrow. And we will continue to come together and 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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