Cyber security: ‘Africa needs to take charge’

ICT experts have said that Africa cannot afford to take a back seat in upcoming global decisions on digital security and the future of technology.

On 17 January, 2022, African diplomats will meet their global counterparts in New York to thrash out the details of a proposed new United Nations (UN) treaty to tackle cybercrime.

An upcoming Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Tshwane, Pretoria report explains why Africa cannot afford to take a back seat in such diplomatic discussions.

Africa currently lags behind many other parts of the world when it comes to digital ‘capacity’ – the people, processes and technology that define the digital age.

Africa lags behind many other parts of the world when it comes to digital ‘capacity’.

Discussions on cybercrime, cyber security and how future digital technology is developed, diffused and deployed cannot be the sole preserve of richer nations with more advanced digital capabilities. Those same technologies are increasingly being used in Africa to shape the way business, government and security are conducted.

According to Karen Allen in an analysis published on AllAfrica, said, it will be an opportunity for the African delegates to highlight growing digital threats and determine how to define, investigate and prosecute what is in effect a borderless crime.

Existing treaties such as the Budapest Convention or the African Union (AU) Convention on Cybercrime and Personal Data Protection (the Malabo Convention) are considered by some states to be useful if somewhat limited regional instruments. Russia has been among the countries arguing for a UN-wide convention, with cyberspace increasingly becoming a theatre of geopolitical competition.

The New York meeting is an example of the growing influence of cyber diplomacy. It is among a raft of multilateral forums, many of them led by the UN and driven by competing resolutions, where cyber governance, resilience, capacity and response are discussed. The core of such engagements is how states balance freedom of information, privacy and security in the rapidly evolving digital world.

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