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Enhancing Africa's Cybersecurity Landscape: Insights from the July 2023 African Union Digital Gov

Author Emily Stamm

Africa is experiencing tremendous technological progress, with internet penetration increasing and smart cities emerging. While the focus is on advancing and expanding technological use, securing the technology is also essential, as cyber threats directed at Africa have increased. The importance of investing in cybersecurity was the focal point of a session at the July 2023 African Union ECOSOCC Citizens Forum on Democracy and Digital Governance in Nairobi, Kenya, where the CyberSecurity NonProfit's (CSNP) Chair, Abdel Sy Fane, presented on Africa’s primary cyber threats and our strategy for improving cybersecurity throughout the continent.

Abdel Sy Fane’s Journey to Global Cybersecurity Leadership

Abdel is from Bamako, Mali and moved to the U.S. when he was 11. Over 15 years, he became an expert in cybersecurity and technology, working in various sectors like agriculture, media, telecommunications, and even the U.S. government. Now, Abdel is the Head of Security at Grail, a biotech company specializing in early cancer detection. He's also the co-founder and chair of CSNP, an international nonprofit that promotes cybersecurity knowledge worldwide.


Cyber Threat Landscape in Africa

As Africa undergoes a digital transformation, it faces a variety of cyber threats, which not only affect Africa's digital goals but also its economy and society. Understanding the primary threats is conducive to formulating a useful cybersecurity strategy.


Online Scams


Online scams, including phishing, identity theft, and credit card fraud, are on the rise in Africa. With an increasing number of Africans gaining internet access, many become potential victims due to a lack of cyber awareness.


Ransomware Attacks


Ransomware threats, which encrypt crucial data and demand payment for its release, are another threat to both individuals and organizations. African businesses, governmental departments, and even hospitals have become targets, leading to halted operations and financial losses.


Data Breaches


Unauthorized access to sensitive data can have dire consequences, including financial loss, reputational damage, and even national security implications. Such breaches are becoming increasingly common in the African cyber landscape.

Misinformation and Disinformation

In the age of digital communication, the spread of false or misleading information—whether unintentional or deliberate—poses significant challenges. From impacting public health efforts to influencing elections, the ripple effects of such digital falsehoods are far-reaching.

Digital Extortion

Beyond ransomware, digital blackmail encompasses threats to release sensitive data or disrupt digital services unless demands are met. This type of cybercrime has seen a marked increase, with perpetrators capitalizing on technological advancements, and especially target explicit images and videos.

Mobile Device Cyber Attacks

Given the ubiquity of mobile phones across Africa and their use in online banking and transactions, threats such as SIM swap fraud are emerging as significant concerns. To alleviate the pervasiveness and minimize the damage of these threats, a multi-faceted strategy involving not just technological solutions but also widespread cyber education, stronger legal frameworks, international cooperation, and public-private partnerships, is crucial.

CSNP's Pillars for Cyber Resilience in Africa

Abdel Sy Fane unveiled CSNP’s three-tier strategy to combat cybercrime in Africa:

  1. Cybersecurity Training Recognizing the skills gap in the cybersecurity domain, this foundational tier is designed for current technology professionals or those pursuing a career in cybersecurity. CSNP's partner curriculum includes modules on network security, incident response, and risk management, and ensures that participants are industry-ready.

  2. Cybersecurity Awareness Nearly 98% of cyberattacks involve social engineering tactics, and so widespread cyber awareness can significantly reduce the number of successful cyber attacks. CSNP has created a variety, in its endeavor, curates a plethora of resources, including workshops, presentations, and real-time phishing campaigns, to enable people to be more security-concious.

  3. Cybersecurity Advisory In a rapidly evolving digital space, organizations often struggle to determine the most effective cybersecurity practices. CSNP's advisory tier offers solutions, insights, and strategies to fortify their cyber postures against looming threats.

CSNP's Outreach in Africa

At the event, Abdel Sy Fane and CSNP president Emily Stamm discussed potential partnerships between CSNP and African organizations. They emphasized CSNP's objective to provide cybersecurity resources for Africa's digital growth. Through various discussions, both CSNP leaders stressed the need for cybersecurity tailored to Africa's specific challenges. By merging CSNP's knowledge with Africa's needs, they aim for a beneficial collaboration.

A Secure Digital Horizon for Africa

As we reflect on this insightful African Union ECOSOCC Citizens Forum on Democracy and Digital Governance and on Abdel Sy Fane’s informative presentation on securing Africa’s digital future, which you can watch now, we determine how to move forward to improve cybersecurity in Africa. Technology in Africa is evolving fast, bringing opportunity but also risks like online scams, ransomware, and false information. At the event, Abdel shared our plan to improve Africa's cybersecurity, highlighting the need for professional training, public awareness, and advisory services.

We thank our partner, COIF, and its leader, Dr. Margaret Ellis, for their support and for connecting us with leaders of the African Union.

If you are interested in learning more, visit csnp.org/africa where you can find information including our policy paper and infographic about cybersecurity in Africa.

Partnerships and sponsorships are essential to improving cybersecurity worldwide, and we encourage organizations to reach out! If you would like to contact us to discuss potential partnerships, visit csnp.org/contact-us.

If you would like to get involved as a volunteer or donate to our cause, visit csnp.org/support.

We thank all our volunteers, donors, partners, sponsors, and speakers for making it possible for us to present on cybersecurity in Africa at this extraordinary event!

About the Author: Emily Stamm has experience in quantum machine learning engineering and consulting, cryptography research and engineering, and number theory research with publications. Emily is also passionate about cybersecurity education and awareness, and is the president of CyberSecurity NonProfit (CSNP.org). They cofounded CSNP to provide security educational resources, training, and events globally, with the purpose of making security more accessible, inclusive, and diverse.

CyberSecurity Education | CSNP

CSNP (CyberSecurity NonProfit) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides free and accessible security education and promotes diversity and inclusivity in security.

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