How African Countries are Easy Prey for Cyber Criminals

stock image of Africa
Despite endemic corruption many African countries are recording healthy economic growth. But the rise of e-commerce and e-banking comes with a heavy cost.

Corruption and Cybercrime in Africa

by Mila Bera

Yes, we are talking about  corruption and cybercrime, the evil twins that have followed the growth in the IT sectors. It is remarkable that Africa has become a particularly fertile ground for hackers and fraudsters.

In recent years, a lot of attention has been given to this phenomenon. Conferences and discussions often focus on cybercrime, an overriding concern for everyone involved. But it also seems that governments in Africa still find cybersecurity a luxury, not a necessity.

For that reason, our research teams have decided to take an in-depth look into the situation in the African virtual world.

Types of Cybercrime in Africa

According to statistics, cybercrime cost the continent a whopping $3.5 billion in 2017. Countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, or Uganda seem to be the prime targets. For instance, Uganda alone lost more than 42 million shillings in 2017 due to cybercrime and its side-effects.

When it comes to categories of attacks, statistics show that malware, ransomware, and phishing are the main types. In other words, authorities in Africa are faced with financial fraud, identity theft, cyberstalking, and so on.

All of these sub-categories of cybercrime are dangerous and harmful. They can target individuals or organizations, and even threats to national security are not out of the question in some countries. Therefore, the authorities must take action against cybercrime as soon as possible.  

How to Fight Cybercrime in Africa

Cybercrime in Africa is not a recent phenomenon, and some measures have already been implemented.

For example, the African Union proposed the Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection back in 2014. Even though not all African countries are members of the Union, the Convention is an important document. It promotes a continent-wide approach in sharing the responsibility when it comes to cybercrime.

Nowadays, the majority of countries in Africa have laws against cyber-criminal. Nonetheless, the legal framework is poorly prepared, which leaves a lot of room for malicious internet activity. It is necessary to upgrade the systems and remove vulnerabilities.

In other words, a coordinated effort is a must. The collaboration within countries should include government bodies, educational institutions, and law enforcement. Of course, cross-border cooperation is a necessity as well. Improved investigation measures could mitigate data losses and reduce the damage caused by cyber-attacks.

The Verdict

Ill-equipped infrastructure and lack of knowledge are the leading causes of vulnerability to cybercrime in Africa. One of the first efforts in reducing the threats should be to raise cyber-awareness and educate Internet users. By doing so, the authorities would prevent many cases of scams and identity theft.

Likewise, it is imperative to invest in the legal framework. Studies show that only 20% of African countries have functional legal infrastructure when it comes to Internet-related activities.

Lastly, the need for adoption of Artificial Intelligence technology cannot be overemphasized. For instance, the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index for 2019 compiled by Oxford Insights and the International Development Research Centre, shows very poor rating of African governments in the employment of AI technology in cybercraft.

“The upper rankings of the year’s Government AI Readiness Index are dominated by countries with strong economies, good governance, and innovative private sectors,” the report notes. “Singapore comes first for AI readiness, with the rest of the top 20 dominated by Western European governments, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and four further Asian economies. There are no Latin American or African countries in the top 20.” (ai4d)

Only by taking decisive action can we expect to reduce the rate of cybercrime in Africa. Policymakers should learn from the experience of developed countries and apply laws and legislation to the African continent. 


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