The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the global telecommunications arm of the United Nations (UN) has called on the government of Nigeria, and other governments across Africa to strengthen their Internet safety regulations.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and general shift online, many African countries are now more exposed to cybersecurity threats than before, necessitating renewed efforts into protecting these spaces.
According to the Guardian Nigeria, the UN noted that in Africa, many countries have seen a rise in reports of digital threats and other malicious cyber activities. The results include sabotaged public infrastructure, large-scale monetary theft from digital fraud, and national security breaches.
The UN says that addressing these vulnerabilities requires a greater commitment to cybersecurity than those already present.
This renewed commitment, says the UN, requires enforceable policy safeguards, risk prevention and management approaches, which together with protective technologies and infrastructures can go towards defending each country’s cyberspace and citizens therein.
From a legal perspective, ITU says that out of 54 African countries assessed, only 29 had passed any legislation to promote cybersecurity. Four countries are currently in drafting processes of their own cyber legislation or are seeking approval.
Interestingly, ITU says that Africa comes second to Europe in terms of the prevalence of protective legislation. Still, it said, that these legal frameworks lack the adequate depth necessary to tackle real online crime. In fact, ITU says that only 10 African countries possess a national cybersecurity strategy that fully addresses measures related to critical infrastructure.
The ITU says that the factors that are forging a conducive environment for the prevalence of cybercrime in Africa included limited public awareness and knowledge regarding potential risks online, underdevelopment of digital infrastructure, limitations in institutional capacity to coordinate and implement what cybersecurity laws are available, and an absence of Cybextensive cybersecurity policies.
In terms of which countries stand out of the African region as cybersecurity leaders, ITU signals Mauritius and Tanzania as top performers, whose high Global Cybersecurity Index scores (96.89 and 90.58 out of 100, respectively) were influenced by aspects like consistent investment in ICT infrastructure and skills, widespread information of the digital rights of citizens and cross-border collaboration on cybersecurity initiatives.
ITU urges other countries in Africa to learn from these examples.