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Cyber diplomacy for Africa

15 April 2024

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for capacity developing on cyber diplomacy for Africa

15-16 April 2024

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Blueprint for cyber diplomacy in Africa

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5 Key Points for Blueprint Draft

1. Developing the continent’s digital capacity in line with the AU’s Digital Transformation Strategy:

  • retreats on cyber diplomacy for ministers of foreign affairs and ICTs
  •  establishing AU tech attache networks in Addis Ababa, Geneva, Brussels, New York, and other digital governance centres
  • start training on cyber diplomacy at diplomatic academies, institutes for international relations, and universities (computer science, international relations, international law).

2. Articulating common positions on critical issues like cybersecurity, data privacy, and the governance of emerging technologies:

  • identify priority issues for Africa as a whole and specific countries
  •  coordinating positions among AU’s and within G77
  •  identifying ‘lead’ countries to particular issues

3. Ensuring Africa has a strong, unified voice in global cyber diplomacy discussions to advance its interests:

  • map participation of African countries in global digital processes
  •  identify champions and ‘lead countries
  •  establish a presence of AUC in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs globally

4. Balancing the economic benefits of digital technologies with addressing their potential negative impacts on human security:

  • help countries to make informed trade-offs between the benefits and risks of digital technology
  •  identify and monitor both negative and positive aspects
  •  check how perceived global risks/benefits are featured in specific African context
  •  develop intra-African digital connectivity (terrestrial cables and Internet Exchange Points).

5. Reducing dependency on external powers for critical digital infrastructure to preserve African sovereignty in the cyber domain:

  • running practical scenarios on the impact of major cyber disruptions on the country’s activities and critical services (e.g. what would happen within the country if all submarine cables were cut)
  •  ensuring security and technical analysis of equipment provided to African countries
  •  diversifying supply of critical digital services (avoid dependence on one company or country)

2 Pager – Blueprint

Blueprint for Cyber Diplomacy in Africa

Draft version: 14 April 2024 (9.00)

1. Introduction

Cyber diplomacy is a strategic imperative for Africa as the continent continues to deepen its digital integration into the global economy. The blueprint outlines why African nations should engage in cyber diplomacy, identifies the main issues, describes how to develop cyber diplomacy strategies, and specifies the actors, venues, and timing for effective digital diplomacy.

2. WHY should African countries develop cyber diplomacy?

  • African countries lack a cohesive framework focusing on digital-policy-related goals within their international relations.
  • Participation in international digital governance is essential as digital issues like cybersecurity, digital economy, and broadband become increasingly central in relations with global powers.
  • Diversify technological bases and strengthen digital governance.
  • Navigate global digital politics, such as the USA-China digital competition, by maintaining autonomy and focusing on sustainable social and economic impacts of technology.

3. WHAT are the primary issues to be addressed by African digital diplomacy?

  • Digital Infrastructure and Standards: Emphasize enhancing internet infrastructure through international collaboration and participation in global standardization forums like the ITU and ICANN.
  • Human Rights: Address internet censorship and data protection, aligning with international human rights standards.
  • Cybersecurity and Cybercrime: Develop comprehensive national strategies and participate in international efforts to combat cyber threats.
  • Digital Economy: Foster a conducive environment for digital trade and innovation, aligning policies with global standards to boost economic growth.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Encourage policies that support AI innovation and consider ethical implications.
  • Sociocultural Issues: Tackle the digital gender gap and ensure inclusivity in digital access and capacity building.

4. HOW should Africa develop cyber diplomacy?

  • Holistic Integration: Incorporate digital goals into national foreign policies and economic strategies.
  • Whole-of-Government and Society Approach: Leverage all sectors of society and government to ensure a unified stance in digital policy advocacy.
  • Strengthen International Cooperation: Utilize platforms like the African Union and regional economic communities to coordinate and amplify Africa’s voice in global digital policy discussions.

5. WHO are the primary actors in African cyber diplomacy?

  • Governments: Lead policy formulation and international negotiations.
  • Regional Bodies: Such as the African Union, to coordinate and consolidate positions.
  • Civil Society and Technical Community:  Provide expertise and grassroots perspectives.
  • Private Sector: Drive innovation and practical insights into digital trends.

6. WHERE should African cyber diplomacy be performed?

  • International Fora: Engage actively in discussions at global institutions such as the ITU, WTO, and various UN bodies.
  • Regional Platforms: Use regional gatherings to build consensus and coordinate strategies.
  • National Arenas: Local initiatives to gather input and synchronize national policies with international standards.

7. WHEN should Africa develop cyber diplomacy?

  • Immediate to Short Term: Begin with integrating digital objectives into current diplomatic engagements.
  • Long Term: Develop comprehensive educational and training programs to build a cadre of experts in digital diplomacy.

8. Conclusion

Developing a robust cyber diplomacy framework is crucial for Africa to safeguard its digital future, protect its interests, and actively participate in shaping the global digital landscape. This blueprint serves as a starting point for nations across the continent to assess, formulate, and implement effective digital foreign policies.

Longer Document – Blueperint

Africa’s Perspective on 


Cybersecurity has emerged as a critical issue for African nations as they navigate the complex landscape of digital transformation and its associated threats. The continent’s approach to cybersecurity is multifaceted, reflecting the diverse socio-economic, political, and technological realities of its member states. African countries are increasingly recognizing the importance of safeguarding their digital infrastructure, protecting personal data, and combating cybercrime to ensure the stability and growth of their digital economies. 

As of April 15, 2024, there is a concerted effort across the continent to address cybersecurity challenges. The African Union (AU) has been instrumental in spearheading initiatives and frameworks aimed at fostering a secure and resilient digital environment. The adoption of the Common African Position on the Application of International Law to the Use of Information and Communication Technologies in the Cyberspace by the AU Peace and Security Council underscores the continent’s commitment to enhancing cybersecurity capabilities and international cooperation. 

The African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, also known as the Malabo Convention, which entered into force in June 2023, criminalizes a broad range of cyber activities and establishes procedures for investigating and prosecuting cybercrime. This landmark convention reflects Africa’s resolve to address security issues that are critical to the development of electronic commerce and the overall digital economy. 

Furthermore, the continent’s engagement in cyber diplomacy and international cybersecurity policy debates is evolving, albeit with varying degrees of participation among member states. The need for a unified African voice in global cyberspace governance is recognized, and efforts are underway to develop strategic approaches to implement UN norms on responsible state behavior in cyberspace at regional and continental levels (Communiqué 1097th meeting).

Capacity building remains a priority, with the AU emphasizing the need to support developing states in enhancing their policy and technical capabilities to address cybersecurity challenges (Digital Watch Observatory). This includes the development of national cyber security and resilience strategies, access to relevant technologies, and support for Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs)/Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs). 

In summary, Africa’s stance on cybersecurity is one of proactive engagement and collaboration, both within the continent and in the international arena. The continent is working towards a secure, stable, and peaceful cyberspace that supports economic growth, sustainable development, and the protection of its citizens’ rights in the digital age. 

Overview of Africa’s Cybersecurity Landscape 

Cybersecurity Policy and Governance 

African nations are increasingly recognizing the importance of cybersecurity to safeguard their digital economies. Many countries have begun to develop national cybersecurity strategies and policies, although the level of maturity 

varies across the continent. The African Union’s Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, also known as the Malabo Convention, is a significant step towards harmonizing cybersecurity and data protection laws across Africa. However, as of the current date, ratification and implementation by member states have been slow, indicating a need for greater commitment at the national level. 

Cyber Threats and Vulnerabilities 

According to the INTERPOL African Cyberthreat Assessment Report 2021, the continent faces a range of cyber threats, including online scams, digital extortion, business email compromise, and the spread of malware. The rapid 

growth of internet users, which stands at approximately 500 million, presents both opportunities and challenges. The digital transformation, especially in mobile banking, has exposed weak networks and security infrastructures to cybercriminals, necessitating a robust cybersecurity framework. 

Regional Collaboration and Capacity Building 

Efforts to strengthen cybersecurity in Africa are not only national but also regional. INTERPOL’s regional cybercrime strategy for Africa aims to enhance intelligence sharing and coordinate actions to improve law enforcement responses. The strategy emphasizes criminal intelligence, operations, capacity building, and public awareness. The African Cybercrime Operations Desk, in partnership with the African Union, Afripol, and the private sector, plays a pivotal role in implementing this strategy. 

Private Sector and International Partnerships 

The private sector’s involvement is crucial in addressing cybersecurity challenges in Africa. Partnerships with international cybersecurity firms and organizations provide African countries with access to expertise, technology, and intelligence. The African Cyberthreat Assessment Report 2021 was a result of such collaboration, with contributions from private sector partners like Group-IB, Kaspersky, Palo Alto Networks, and Trend Micro. These partnerships are essential for developing a resilient cybersecurity ecosystem in Africa. 

Public Awareness and Education 

Public awareness and education are critical components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. With a significant portion of the African population still to come online, educating users about cyber risks and safe online practices is vital. Initiatives to raise awareness among businesses and the general public are being implemented, but there is a need for more widespread and continuous efforts. This includes integrating cybersecurity education into school curricula and conducting regular national awareness campaigns.

In summary, Africa’s stance on cybersecurity is evolving, with an increasing recognition of the threats and a growing commitment to address them through policy development, regional collaboration, capacity building, private sector partnerships, and public education. However, the diversity of the continent means that progress is uneven, and there is a need for concerted efforts to ensure a secure and resilient digital environment for all African nations. 

Cybersecurity Policy Development in Africa National Cybersecurity Strategies and Legal Frameworks 

African nations are increasingly recognizing the importance of cybersecurity to safeguard their digital economies and national security. The adoption of the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, known as the Malabo Convention, in 2014 marked a significant step towards a continental framework. However, the translation of such agreements into national policy and practice has been uneven across the continent. Countries like Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa have made strides in developing national cybersecurity strategies. For instance, South Africa’s National Cybersecurity Policy Framework (NCPF) outlines a comprehensive approach to promoting cybersecurity culture, establishing public-private partnerships, and ensuring a robust legal framework governing cyberspace (Government of South Africa). 

Institutional Capacity and Cybersecurity Governance 

The establishment of dedicated institutions and governance structures is crucial for the effective implementation of cybersecurity policies. Senegal, for example, has taken steps to set up a cyber-defence command and control centre and to strengthen the powers of its defence and security forces in combating cybercrime (ITU). Similarly, Mauritius is working on establishing a Cyber Threat Center and issuing guidelines on safe cybersecurity practices to promote its services in the Southern Africa region (Afripoli). 

Cybersecurity Skills Development and Capacity Building 

Recognizing the dynamic nature of cybersecurity challenges, African countries are focusing on developing the necessary skills and expertise. South Africa’s

NCPF, for instance, promotes the development of capacity-building strategies to address specific skills requirements and encourages the enhancement of cybersecurity research within universities and industry (Government of South Africa). This approach is essential for creating an enabling environment for cybersecurity training, education, research, and development. 

Regional and International Collaboration 

African countries are not only developing internal capabilities but are also engaging in regional and international collaborations. Senegal’s National Cybersecurity strategy emphasizes involvement in regional and international work on cybersecurity, reflecting a broader trend across the continent (ITU). Such collaborations are vital for sharing best practices, intelligence, and resources to combat cyber threats effectively. 

Data Sovereignty and Localization 

Data sovereignty has become a significant concern for African nations. Senegal’s President Macky Sall’s directive to transfer all government data to national data centers highlights the move towards digital sovereignty. This step is indicative of a broader trend where African countries are seeking to repatriate national data hosted outside the country to mitigate risks and assert control over their digital assets (Afripoli). 

In conclusion, while there is a growing awareness and action on cybersecurity policy development in Africa, the pace and depth of implementation vary across the continent. The efforts range from establishing legal frameworks and governance structures to building institutional capacities and fostering regional and international cooperation. The drive towards data sovereignty and the focus on skills development are also shaping Africa’s cybersecurity landscape.

Cybersecurity Capacity Building in Africa 

Strengthening Cybersecurity Frameworks 

African nations are increasingly recognizing the importance of robust cybersecurity frameworks to protect against cyber threats. Capacity building in this context involves the development of national cybersecurity strategies, legal measures, and the establishment of dedicated institutions such as Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTs). For instance, countries like Kenya and Nigeria have made significant strides in formulating national cybersecurity policies and legal frameworks that address privacy, unauthorized access, and cybercrime (ITU Global Cybersecurity Index 2020). 

Enhancing Technical and Human Capacity 

Technical and human capacity development is crucial for the effective implementation of cybersecurity strategies. This encompasses not only the deployment of advanced technological solutions but also the training and upskilling of professionals in the cybersecurity field. Initiatives such as the African Union’s Cybersecurity Expert Group aim to foster knowledge exchange and develop a skilled workforce capable of responding to cyber incidents (African Union Cybersecurity Expert Group). 

Fostering Public-Private Partnerships 

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are vital for leveraging the strengths and resources of both sectors in combating cyber threats. African countries are increasingly engaging with private sector entities, academia, and civil society to enhance their cybersecurity posture. These collaborations often focus on sharing best practices, threat intelligence, and developing joint initiatives to improve overall cyber resilience.

International Cooperation and Agreements 

International cooperation is a key pillar in Africa’s approach to cybersecurity. Many African countries have entered into bilateral and multilateral agreements to facilitate information sharing, capacity building, and joint responses to cyber threats. For example, the African Union has established partnerships with international organizations such as the European Union to bolster cybersecurity capabilities across the continent (African Union – European Union Partnership). 

Leveraging Global Platforms for Cybersecurity Advancement 

African nations are actively participating in global platforms and initiatives to share good practices and improve their preparedness and response capabilities. The Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) and the ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) are examples of international efforts that African countries are part of, aiming to enhance global cybersecurity through collaboration and knowledge exchange (Global Forum on Cyber Expertise, ITU Global Cybersecurity Agenda). 

Through these efforts, African countries are working to bridge the cyber capacity gap and ensure a secure and resilient digital environment for their citizens and businesses. 

Africa’s Engagement in Global Cybersecurity Policy Dialogues 

Africa’s Position in International Cybersecurity Norms and Standards 

African nations have increasingly recognized the importance of participating in international discussions on cybersecurity norms and standards. The continent’s collective stance, primarily facilitated by the African Union (AU), emphasizes the need for a balanced approach that protects national security, supports economic development, and respects human rights. The AU’s

Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection, also known as the Malabo Convention, is a testament to Africa’s commitment to harmonizing cybersecurity laws across the continent (African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection). 

Africa’s Contributions to the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) 

African countries have been active participants in the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security. Through these platforms, African representatives contribute to the development of a common understanding and the application of international law in cyberspace, as well as confidence building measures and capacity-building efforts to ensure all states can secure their digital infrastructure (United Nations OEWG). 

The Role of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Shaping Africa’s Cyber Diplomacy 

Regional Economic Communities (RECs) such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) play a pivotal role in shaping Africa’s cyber diplomacy. These RECs often serve as building blocks for the AU’s continental strategies, ensuring that regional perspectives and priorities are integrated into Africa’s collective voice in international cybersecurity debates. They also facilitate the implementation of regional cybersecurity initiatives that align with global standards (ECOWAS, SADC). 

Africa’s Engagement with Global Cybersecurity Alliances and Partnerships 

African nations are increasingly engaging with global cybersecurity alliances and partnerships to bolster their cyber defenses and contribute to global cybersecurity resilience. This includes participation in international frameworks such as the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) and partnerships with entities like the European Union and individual countries that offer technical assistance and capacity-building programs. These

engagements help African countries to align with international best practices and strengthen their voice in global cybersecurity policy-making (Global Forum on Cyber Expertise). 

Challenges and Opportunities for Africa in International Cybersecurity Negotiations 

While Africa is making strides in its cyber diplomacy efforts, the continent faces challenges such as varying levels of cybersecurity maturity among its member states, limited resources, and the need for more technical expertise. However, these challenges also present opportunities for Africa to advocate for inclusive and equitable international cybersecurity policies that consider the needs of developing nations. Africa’s growing digital economy and its potential to contribute to global cybersecurity knowledge make it an essential player in international cybersecurity debates. 

In summary, Africa’s role in international cybersecurity debates is characterized by active participation and advocacy for a harmonized approach that considers the continent’s unique challenges and opportunities. Through the AU, RECs, and global partnerships, Africa is contributing to the shaping of international cybersecurity norms and standards, ensuring that its voice is heard in the global arena. 

The Impact of Cybersecurity on Africa’s Socio Economic Development 

Cybersecurity as a Catalyst for Economic Growth 

The burgeoning digital economy in Africa, with its potential to create millions of jobs and contribute significantly to the continent’s GDP, is intrinsically linked to robust cybersecurity measures. As businesses and services move online, the protection of data and digital infrastructure becomes paramount. Cybersecurity investments not only safeguard existing economic activities but also instill confidence in entrepreneurs and investors, thereby stimulating further economic growth. The correlation between secure digital environments and the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) is

particularly noteworthy, as investors seek stable and secure markets for technology-driven ventures. 

Cybersecurity Challenges Affecting Economic Sectors 

Key sectors such as fintech, e-commerce, and healthtech are driving Africa’s digital transformation. However, these sectors are also prime targets for cybercriminals, which can undermine consumer confidence and economic stability. Cybersecurity challenges, if not addressed, can lead to significant financial losses for businesses and consumers alike. For instance, the disruption of digital payment systems can have a ripple effect on the broader economy, affecting supply chains and the overall ease of doing business. Addressing these challenges through effective cybersecurity measures is essential to protect the integrity of these critical economic sectors. 

Enhancing Employment Opportunities through Cybersecurity 

The demand for cybersecurity professionals is on the rise across Africa, creating new career paths and opportunities for skill development. As the digital economy expands, so does the need for a skilled workforce capable of protecting it. Training and education programs in cybersecurity can thus play a significant role in job creation and in addressing the unemployment rates among the youth. Moreover, the development of a local cybersecurity industry can lead to the establishment of new companies and services, further expanding employment opportunities. 

Cybersecurity’s Role in Social Development 

Cybersecurity extends beyond economic implications; it is also crucial for social development. Secure access to digital services enables inclusive growth and helps bridge the digital divide. For example, secure online platforms can facilitate access to education, healthcare, and government services, particularly for remote and underserved populations. By ensuring the security of these platforms, African nations can accelerate social development and improve the quality of life for their citizens.

International Partnerships in Strengthening Africa’s Cybersecurity 

Africa’s engagement with international partners in cybersecurity is vital for socio-economic development. Collaborations with global entities can lead to the transfer of knowledge, resources, and best practices. These partnerships are instrumental in building resilient cybersecurity infrastructures that can withstand global threats. Furthermore, they can assist in harmonizing cybersecurity regulations across borders, which is crucial for international trade and regional economic integration. Africa’s participation in international cybersecurity dialogues ensures that its interests and unique challenges are represented and addressed on the global stage. 

In conclusion, cybersecurity is a critical enabler of socio-economic development in Africa. It supports the growth of the digital economy, protects vital economic sectors, creates employment opportunities, facilitates social development, and benefits from international partnerships. As Africa continues to embrace digital transformation, prioritizing cybersecurity will be essential for ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth. 


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