Africa as a Cyber Player
by Nathalie Van Raemdonck
Africa and Europe have a long and complicated history of engagement. Europeans and Africans are, however, moving forward towards a partnership of equals. This is becoming apparent from European digital engagements with Africa that move away from a development support context, such as the Digital Economy Task Force and the Policy and Regulation Initiative for Digital Africa. African states have been aware of the social and economic opportunities digitalisation brings for the continent for some time now. Awareness is growing that a digital ecosystem also needs to be protected against cybersecurity threats. The topic unfortunately also competes with other pressing issues for the region. This makes it hard for players in the continent to prioritise cybersecurity and perceive it as a necessity, instead of a luxury.
African Policy Initiatives
Cybersecurity efforts in Africa are a patchwork of regional and subregional regulations, strategies and initiatives. Among the most important are the Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection (Malabo Convention), the Cybersecurity Expert Group (AUCSEG), the Cybersecurity flagship in the AU Agenda 2063, the Policy and Regulations Initiative for Digital Africa (PRIDA), the Programme for Infrastructure Development for Africa (PIDA), the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, the Smart Africa Alliance, the ECOWAS’ cybersecurity strategy and the SADC’s action plan on cybersecurity.
International Norms and Engagement
- African countries are ready to start sharing more of their perspectives on international peace and stability in cyberspace at international fora. Mechanisms and platforms are in the making to build African positions and promote regional and international cooperation in the area of cybersecurity.
- Actual implementation of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) cyber norms has not been discussed, and might prove to be difficult for African countries. It is a valid question whether Africa is capable of implementing the current cyber norm or whether they were not made fit for most African countries.
EU-Africa Cyber Relations
- The von der Leyen Commission defined in its 2020 joint communication ‘Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa’ the importance of moving away from the traditional donor–recipient relations and towards a partnership of equals. The joint communication includes a strategy to work together to strengthen the international rules-based order and the multilateral system, with the United Nations at its core. The strategy also includes a focus on the continent’s digital transformation.
- The EU strategy to support the African continent’s digital transformation builds on numerous EU development projects and cooperation initiatives that exist under several action frameworks and funding instruments.
- Many recent capacity-building and development cooperation projects have a digital component thanks to the Digital4Development (D4D) strategy, which aims to mainstream digital issues in all of its projects.
- There are currently few cybersecurity-specific EU initiatives in Africa, but foundations are built in cooperation with several pan-African projects on digital economy, regulations, infrastructure and law enforcement, which are complemented by bilateral projects in African states.