Kathy Gibson reports from Gitex Africa Morocco 2024 – The digital divide is still very real in Africa and this means that organisations have to ensure the security of their systems wherever they are deployed.
Favour Femi-Oyewole, group chief information security officer at Access Bank, points out that many Africans – especially in rural areas – have only recently had their first experience with online services.
Too often, this is quickly followed by their first cyberattack.
“As long as there is an Internet presence, there is a danger of Internet attacks,” she says.
But people in all areas need to find ways to embrace technological innovation while securing their data and money.
Femi-Oyewole defines the theatre of operation as the last mile. In Africa this is complicated by the digital divide, where inequalities create a disadvantage and which exacerbates the cybersecurity gap.
“We can’t wait for other continents to solve these problems for us. We need to do it ourselves,” Femi-Oyewole says.
There are many challenges standing in the way of this, she adds.
Weak talent management is a reality, along with barriers to integration and big gaps in collaboration.
At the same time, Africa suffers from low digital literacy, weak institutions, policy flips, and the impact of data crimes.
Other challenges include inadequate market offerings, supply chain vulnerabilities and inadequate research funding.
Africans also live with the reality of inequitable funding opportunities, supply chain dependencies, foreign exchange risks.
Some countries have been proactive in tackling the challenges. For instance, Rwanda’s broadband rollout allows citizens to sign up. Kenya goes a step further and has made digital literacy a project. In South Africa, the cybersecurity initiative is a deliberate approach to pursuing a sustained national cyber capacity-building agenda.
Any strategic enabler for success must aim to secure the last mile, Femi-Oyewole says. It has to be people-centric by accelerating reforms and digital investment at scale.
To do this, it must eliminate broadband access gaps, strengthen trust in digital adoption, and embolden the acquisition of digital skills. And we must place a big focus on collaboration across the continent.
Femi-Oyewole’s call to action starts with policy makers, who need to develop guard rails to enable communities to step up safely and confidently.
Communities must internally derive solutions with a robust continual improvement loop.
Investors and businesses should invest in secure infrastructure and developing local tech startups.
Youths and mentors will help to transform pure thought and tangible resources into digital products.
A multi-stakeholder approach is key in bringing these elements together, making sure initiatives are transformational and self-driven.