Top reasons why Africa should act now to address cybersecurity threats

As businesses become global and interconnected through the help of the internet, the ability to protect the data of partners and clients has become one of the fundamentals behind every business decision. The increasingly complex nature of the financial market creates a unique situation where there are a lot of access points that can be used by attackers to penetrate systems and acquire data. Thus, companies should protect those points through applying proper cybersecurity practices so that they are not abused.

Given the importance of cybersecurity in the financial and investment sector, it is surprising that African countries have not taken necessary steps to secure their sensitive data. According to the Global Cybersecurity Index in 2021, only 29 out of 54 African countries assessed have introduced cybersecurity legislation. Worryingly, in 2022, 52% of companies in Africa believed that they were not prepared to handle large-scale cyberattacks. Furthermore, Interpol’s Africa Cyberthreat Assessment Report found that more than 9 in 10 businesses in Africa have not implemented proper cybersecurity protocol.

Cybersecurity issues “low” on African businesses’ priority list

The unique challenges of running business in a developing continent like Africa also means that cybersecurity issues rank low on African businesses’ priority list. However, the inadequate cybersecurity handling in Africa is detrimental to the enterprises, as well as countries and eventually, the entire continent. The financial loss due to cybercrime in the continent is enormous for its economy – a report from Techcabal stated that Africa lost $4 billion annually due to cyberattacks. Moreover, cyberattacks also affected a lot of aspects beyond finances. Data loss, intellectual property theft, and leakage of financial/personal information will eventually damage the brand of reputation of businesses in Africa.

Poor cybersecurity practices in the continent have also allowed criminals to easily target enterprises, and even the government. Countries across Africa have reported increased digital threats and malicious cyber activities. However, countries such as Kenya and Zambia have become the front runners to the continent’s cybersecurity war by implementing new cybersecurity laws.

Piracy and intellectual rights theft still plague the continent

New anti-piracy legislations in countries across the continent, such as Kenya, will instill investors’ confidence to invest there. Legislation to ban or block infringing materials are seen as real actions to tackle the long-lasting piracy issues plaguing Africa.

However, Africa still has a long way to go to be fully cybersecurity. Some companies, such as Irdeto, prove that battling piracy and protecting contents across the region is a profitable business model.

To increase cybersecurity, African organizations are advised to shift their paradigm to a risk-based mindset. With this mindset, organizations would identify and rank incoming risks, and decide what to do with the risk afterwards. Risks that are too severe will get the most priority. With this mindset, there is no need for companies to monitor everything and spread their resources too thin.

However, reducing enterprise risks are better done through employee awareness and training. Based on research from Stanford University, US, around 88% of data breaches are caused by employee mistakes. Increasing training and emphasis towards employee wellbeing will help reduce data breaches.

Human error dominates cyber breaches

A lot of cybersecurity mistakes are caused by the people operating a system. They might inadvertently open an attachment from an unknown sender, click links on seemingly innocent emails, or fail to protect and restrict access to databases. In this regard, Africa needs to strengthen its cybersecurity methods and improve their confidence in data protection methods. Forming a data protection forum with concrete cyber and security laws protecting African data is a good major first step. These can be furthered by public awareness campaigns, regional collaboration, and public-private partnerships. Companies should also take steps to protect their content, brand, and investments.

Cybersecurity is important to participate in global markets

Cybersecurity issues are not unique to Africa. Other continents across the globe has also faced similar issues, and successfully mitigated cyberattacks while implementing proper cybersecurity regulations. Africa can tap into those resources, as well as third parties who can support them in building cyber resilience. Through better cybersecurity regulations, the investment appeal of Africa will increase.

After African organizations understand what cyberthreats they are facing, they will be able to define strategies to mitigate them, deploy resources, and find a complete solution. Ideally, after applying those steps, African companies and organizations will be digitally secure, both for the benefit of the organization and the global network of which it is part of.