The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi has called for regional partnerships to combat cyber threats in Africa. Abdullahi urged governments on the continent to be resilient in minimising the impact of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, national security, reputation and economy, as the continent experiences rapid technological growth and increasing internet penetration.
The NITDA DG made this call while speaking on ‘Strategies for Boosting Africa’s Cyber Resilience’ at the ongoing GISEC Global, a leading gathering ground for the cybersecurity community in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He emphasised that Africa cannot afford to be apathetic towards cybersecurity and must work collaboratively to build and implement robust, inclusive, and proactive cyber resilience methodologies.
According to the Check Point Research Report of 2022 cited by Abdullahi, African countries experienced an average of 1,848 cyberattacks per week, per organization in 2022, compared to 1,164 globally. The most populous African country, Nigeria, accounted for the largest number of users with over 100 million internet users, followed by Egypt with 76 million and South Africa with 41 million. However, these countries, along with Kenya, also account for 60% of the $4 billion annual cost of cybercrime in Africa.
The NITDA boss said that despite these challenges, Africa’s digital transformation projects are gaining momentum, with online shoppers reaching almost 390 million and social media users reaching over 380 million in 2022. However, the increasing threat of cyberattacks puts Africa’s socio-economic security at risk both locally and internationally.
To boost Africa’s cyber resilience, Abdullahi recommended that countries adopt several key strategies, including understanding the current cybersecurity landscape in Africa, creating and implementing comprehensive and multi-stakeholder policies and legal frameworks, closing the cybersecurity talent gap by investing in training and development programs, and prioritising regional partnerships and cross-border cooperation to combat cyber threats.
Abdullahi also stressed the need for the government and private sector to provide institutional support for cybersecurity, including the creation of dedicated cybersecurity agencies and units, as well as public-private partnerships that allow for the sharing of resources and expertise. He emphasised that national cyber-response plans and specialised Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) for critical infrastructure sectors are essential in ensuring cyber resilience.
“We need to invest in the development of robust cybersecurity technologies, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems and endpoint protection. These tools can help detect and prevent cyberattacks before they cause significant harm.
“Both the government and private sector must play a role in providing institutional support for cybersecurity, including the creation of dedicated cybersecurity agencies and units, as well as public-private partnerships that allow for the sharing of resources and expertise.
“We must prioritise regional partnerships and cross-border cooperation to combat cyber threats since they do not respect geographical boundaries. This can include African countries working together to formulate and implement effective responses to cyberattacks and share best practices.”
In conclusion, he called on African nations to work collaboratively and proactively to build cyber resilience and mitigate the risks of cyberattacks. By adopting the right strategies and approaches, Africa can enhance its cybersecurity posture and build resilience against cyber threats.