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Africa Cyber fellowship to boost war on online crime

 Member countries must strengthen their cyber security and cyber crime laws. [iStockphoto]

The Commonwealth has launched an Africa cyber fellowship to help member countries strengthen their cyber security and cyber crime laws. 

The continent is estimated to have lost Sh413 billion ($3.5 billion), according to a recent report. 

This is premised on the fact that the African economy has been haemorrhaging billions thanks to cyber-crime and as a result, there has been stalled economic and industrial development, destroyed lives and livelihoods, shredded social fabrics, and increased the exploitation of vulnerable communities, including women, girls and the elderly.

Dr Tawanda Hondora Head of the Rule of Law Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat (pictured) said the programme will facilitate collaboration between cyber security and cybercrime experts from Commonwealth member countries in Africa and empower them by providing access, exposure, and training.

The fellowship to run for the next 18 months targets experts working in government, academia, industries, private companies and university graduates among others with keen expertise.

“The main aim of this programme is to assist member countries to build and strengthen their anti-cybercrime legislative policies and institutional frameworks, provide technical assistance, undertake research and help countries change and reform their laws as well as provide training to judges, magistrates and law enforcement officials,” said Hondora.

He brought to the fore that 12 member countries in Africa -including Kenya- had already signed up for the programme and the training would see to it that countries build a community of experts in Africa which will help build the capacity to combat cybercrime and strengthen cyber security infrastructure. The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal sovereign states

Lara pace from the Protection Group International (PGI), which is a partner with Commonwealth, observed that in as much as there was a need for the setting up of cybercrime infrastructure in the continent the human element should not be ignored.

“The value of this programme is building networks across Africa and as it grows there is a growing pool of expertise that can collaborate share info and lessons learnt from their experience

Andy Chadwick from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), said that with Kenya headed to the general elections in approximately a month’s time, there was need to do more to ensure a seamless electoral process.

“No technology is hundred percent secure because there are always vulnerabilities. The best any nation could do is secure that process by putting in place a good strategy, having policies in place and good cyber security awareness of all staff to ensure they know how to report and handle it should an incident occur,” said Chadwick.

During the two-day conference in Nairobi, fellows will explore solutions required to address the increasingly complex types, scale, and impact of cyber-crime in Africa.

They will also consider options for African countries’ involvement in different anti-cybercrime treaty frameworks, including efforts initiated by the United Nations General Assembly, to create a global cybercrime treaty.

The launch of the fellowship follows the adoption of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration during the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government, which recognized that free, open, inclusive and secure cyberspace can help to foster economic growth for all communities as part of efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

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