Maiden Africa Cyber Experts Community meeting kicks off

Maiden Africa Cyber Experts Community meeting kicks off

Deputy Communications and Digitalisation Minister, Ama Pomaa Boateng, has pledged the country’s readiness to support, collaborate with and, most importantly, learn from other African states to secure the continent’s digital ecosystem.

She, therefore, urged other African countries yet to ratify the Malabo Convention to do so in order to make the convention operable, in a speech she delivered on behalf of sector Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, at the maiden African Union—Global Forum on Cyber Expertise’s (AU-GFCE) Africa Cyber Experts’ (ACE) Community meeting in Accra.

“Cybercrime is a trans-border issue and we need an interoperable system – legislations and criminal justice procedures – to better cooperate and respond to the issues through incident reporting, information sharing, investigations and prosecutions,” the deputy communications and digitalisation minister said.

Deputy Communications and Digitalisation Minister, Ama Pomaa Boateng
Deputy Communications and Digitalisation Minister, Ama Pomaa Boateng

“Cyberattacks have serious implications on socio-economic development and the national security of our countries. Many of our citizens have experienced cybersecurity incidents including online fraud, online blackmail, online impersonation and identity theft, publication of non-consensual intimate images, unauthorised access, social engineering scams, hacking into protected systems and other cybersecurity-related breaches… A single cybersecurity incident can have global reach and devastating effects on governments, businesses and individuals,” she added.

Acknowledging the boundaryless nature of cybercrime, the deputy minister reaffirmed the government of Ghana’s desire to cooperate with its African partners and stakeholders to further develop capacity through joint initiatives such as the ACE Community meeting.

Acting Director-General of Ghana’s Cyber Security Authority (CSA), Dr. Albert Antwi-Boasiako, expressed optimism that the ACE Community meeting will meet its expectations by identifying the continent’s capacity building needs.

“I believe experts gathered here will also come out with innovative ways of deploying capacity building initiatives, taking into consideration our specific developmental needs and the cyber-context of our respective countries,” he stated – recommending the inclusion of African private sector cybersecurity actors in subsequent gatherings to promote public-private sector development of continental capacity building programmes.

Head of Economic Integration-African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), Dr. Towela Nyirenda-Jere, observed that the importance of cyber-capacity and cybersecurity in this digital world and age is self-evident.

According to her, while increased use of the Internet and ICTs creates new opportunities for innovation and development, it also opens up opportunities for criminals to commit acts of cybercrime on a large scale.

“The ACE Community is thus coming at the right time,” she stated.

Dr. Nyirenda-Jere further noted that in line with its mandate as the AU’s development agency, charged with implementing Africa’s priority frameworks and programmes, AUDA-NEPAD developed a cybersecurity assessment framework based on the Malabo Convention.

“We considered this to be significant – not only because Cybersecurity is one of the flagship programmes of Agenda 2063, but also because we understood the need to develop tailored guidelines and interventions for our member-states.   AUDA-NEPAD has therefore undertaken assessments in 10 countries using this framework and we intend, with the support of partners and member-states, to continue with these assessments,” she stated.

The African Union (AU) adopted the Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, also known as the Malabo Convention, in 2014. The Malabo Convention aims to establish a legal framework for cybersecurity, protection of personal data and security of electronic transactions. It defines the main guidelines for the criminalisation and repression of cybercrime and related issues. It has currently been signed by 15 member-states and will come into force when ratified by 15 member-states.

Over the past few years, Ghana has put in place a number of interventions as part of efforts to ensure a secure and resilient digital ecosystem. Among these interventions are revision of the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy to provide a national direction and implementation plan for Ghana’s cybersecurity development; passage of the Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038) to provide a legal basis for cybersecurity development; institutionalisation of cybersecurity to foster domestic cooperation and collaboration; and ratification of the Convention on Cybercrime – also known as the Budapest Convention; and the African Union Convention on Cyber Security & Personal Data Protection, also known as the Malabo Convention.

The country has also adopted the ECOWAS Regional Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Strategy & Regional Critical Infrastructure Protection Policy to strengthen Ghana’s regional and international response in fighting cybercrime and improving on cybersecurity.

The country’s efforts in cybersecurity were recognised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and scored 86.69 percent in the latest Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) – major progress from previous ratings in 2017 and 2018, which were 32.6 percent and 43.7 percent respectively.

The achievement, according to the deputy minister, is proof of government’s commitment to developing the country’s cyberspace to be secure and resilient for a sustained digital transformation, and Ghana is determined to improve on this feat over the coming years.

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