How Africa tackles its cybersecurity skills gap

"African organizations face unique challenges that require very unique solutions."

Due to the increased accessibility of mobile devices, digital connectivity is spread over African countries, because the continent wants to develop its cybersecurity sector to support job growth and reduce the emerging threats of online security.

Recognized African technical hubs, such as those in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, have transformed their communication networks with Android systems, partly thanks to cheap smartphones and greater 3G access.

But it is often at the expense of security, especially malware and social media scams that contribute to the already cruel levels of cybercrime.

"When I saw four years in cybersecurity, nobody knew what you were talking about," said Christian Kisutsa, who works for Euclid Consultancy, a cyber security company based in Nairobi.

"There has been a lot of awareness since then, but we are still in the very first phase of growing talent."

According to a 2016 report by the Commission of the African Union (AUC) and cyber security company Symantec, only 20% of African states currently have the legal base framework to combat cybercrime – activity that will only increase as the e-commerce industry of Africa expects reach in 2025 $ 75 billion.

In Kenya, for example, a country with one of the highest internet penetration rates on 69% of the continent, legislation such as the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act is aimed at combating financial losses, mainly attributed to bank malware and card skimmers, totaling KSh 21 billion. amounted to (around $ 208 million) in 2017, as stated in a report from cybersecurity consultancy Serianu.

A second report from Serianu estimates that cybercrime in Africa reached $ 3.5 billion in 2017, a cost that prompted the Nairobi company to take the lead in educating the next generation of cybersecurity professionals by opening technical coaching centers this year. in Kenya and Mauritius. .

"Currently, most training modules in Africa are a copy of the West," Brencil Kaimba, a Serianu representative, said. The Daily Swig.

"This is because this model has worked the longest time, but now we realize that African organizations face unique challenges that require very unique solutions."

Serianu predicts that the shortage of African cyberskills will reach 100,000 by 2020, and that by focusing on practical, localized training, the markets across the continent can grow into the biggest mobile threats they face.

But although information awareness and mobile security can be a lot better than four years ago, as the youngest children say, Kisutsa has translated the industry's infancy into a few legislators who have the technical know-how of what makes good digital hygiene – often the result of implemented measures that help, in contrast to the level of cybercrime, to reduce.

"The development of hacking tools for penetration testing is considered illegal under the new law," Kisutsa said The Daily Swig.

"The [the bill] does not take into account the motive to make such tools. I just do not think that the government fully understands these problems. & # 39;

Although the problem does indeed resemble the difficulties of creating a global mindset that is safety first, the lack of expertise in African countries is reinforced by unaffordable costs related to certifications.

Technical training in one of the centers of Serianu costs $ 1,000 and is generally less expensive than most European facilities – and training generally does not really offer a career in cybersecurity.

"The education system makes things difficult [in Kenya], "Said Kisutsa." Unlike in the United Kingdom and the US, where you will find fully specialized cyber security courses, there are usually elective courses here.

"So, on a university level you will be thrown into an IT diploma and then you will have an optional course that is cybersecurity."

Yet the absence of resources in Africa has a knock-on effect, which creates a self-starting attitude whereby infosec enthusiasts will focus on online training, create their own hack community to help get the ground up and the industry to let grow.

In Kenya, for example, AfricaHackOn has been coding boot camps at universities since 2014, and in South Africa Teen Geeks offers children from disadvantaged communities an opportunity to solve real world problems by teaching them technical skills while opening doors to a cyber security career path.

"The sooner we can learn innovation and entrepreneurship to our children, the sooner we can start the next generation of Africans who are innovative," said Lindiwe Matalali, founder of the South African non-profit. The Daily Swig.

"If you look at some of the top companies in tech, how many of them would you say they were made from Africa? There are few.

"This is not because we do not have the activity, the drive and the talent in our country, but that our continent is underused and that our educational system mainly provides study to get to work, and we have to expose them to innovation."

Africa Teen Geeks has been training children from six to 18 years old since 2014, so far it has reached more than 40,000 children, according to Matalali.

Earlier this year, Africa Teen Geeks, in collaboration with Symantec and the United Nations, organized a worldwide hackathon competition for young people in the US to solve cyber-crime problems. The team from South Africa, Wakanda Vibes, who trained under the Africa Teen Geeks program, won.

"We can show the children how to use their skills that we have taught them for something good," said Matalali. "If you do not expose them to using the right skills for the right reasons, they can end up in the wrong crowd and use those skills for unethical things."

Matalali and African Teen Geeks are currently working with the South African government to program coding programming courses that can be used across schools throughout the country, and also help other countries to use their university communities to To unleash hack culture that is suitable for Africa. .

"What you think is that you have consultants who come from outside, for example from London, to advise us," said Matalali.

"They bring what they know and offer solutions for what's good in the UK – but we do not have the same infrastructure here, so it's about creating manpower or human capital and then start creating solutions that work for us . "

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