The continent’s burgeoning digital economy is rife with opportunities for growth, but also presents challenges that must be addressed to ensure that the benefits of technology are fully realised.
One of the most significant challenges facing Africa is the lack of digital security infrastructure.
While many African countries focus on building reliable electricity and internet networks to grow their startup ecosystems, cybersecurity is often not given the priority it deserves.
Approximately 90% of African businesses are operating without cybersecurity protocols in place, making them vulnerable to cyber threats, such as hacking, phishing, and malware attacks.
The economic consequences of digital insecurity are already substantial. It is estimated that it costs South Africa $570m a year, Nigeria $500m and Kenya $36m.
In addition, surveys of CEOs in Africa have found that businesses are more reluctant than individuals to adopt and use the internet for e-commerce as a result of fear of insufficient data security – a sector which is projected to reach $180bn a year by 2025.
The lack of digital security in Africa is not just an issue for existing businesses, but also for startups. With the increasing use of digital technologies in areas such as healthcare and education, the security of personal data has become paramount.
If, for example, a startup facilitating communication between pharmacies and insurances companies was to experience a data breach, its clients’ personal information would be at high risk, potentially leading to identity theft and other forms of cybercrime.
What steps should be taken?
First, governments need to invest in cybersecurity strategies, including the establishment of regulatory frameworks and a greater focus on cybersecurity education, to ensure that the next generation is equipped with the knowledge and skills to tackle cyber threats.
Then, tech companies must develop solutions that are specifically tailored to the needs of African businesses. A recent success story, the South African startup Sendmarc, which raised $7m last week, has shown that there is a considerable interest from investors.
The potential of the digital economy in Africa is enormous, but things can go wrong if digital security is not given the attention it deserves.