GFCE 2021 – Global Forum on Cyber Expertise

10 Dec 2021 14:15h - 15:15h

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At the beginning of the open forum, Mr Moctar Yedaly (GFCE Africa Program Director) stressed that capacity development is one of the important things for the African continent, especially in the area of cybersecurity. The GFCE, together with the African Union Cyber Security Experts Group and Diplo has taken several initiatives this year to enhance its presence and to help the African continent develop its capacities.

Ms Nnenna Ifeanyi-Ajufo (Vice-Chairperson AU Cyber Security Experts Group) said that capacity development is a broader concept that should be considered from a more systematic institutional perspective, including African citizens, civil society, the private sector, government institutions, and not simply as an idea of training and skills development. She also noted that general international approaches to capacity development are not enough to meet the African reality: ‘I always say the capacity building needs of Africa can never be the capacity needs of Europe or other regions’. In addition, the national ideological context matters: ‘colonialism is a sensitive issue for Africa, whether we like it or not.  It is often at the centre stage of interpretation, to western intervention including when styled as cooperation or capacity building’ noted Ifeanyi-Ajufo.  Finally, she pointed that the cybersecurity capacity development dialogue is still lacking truly multistakeholder involvement. Governments continue to consider cybersecurity as a national security issue and do not trust most civil society organisations.

Mr Martin Koyabe (Senior Manager AU-GFCE Project) echoed the words of Ifeanyi-Ajufo about the importance of having trust and orienting capacity development efforts on the needs of recipient countries: ‘you have to look at different layers, not only technical skills for cybersecurity, but also national issues, governance framework and even individual’. Koyabe then spoke about the main objectives of the project he leads in 55 African Union countries. First – to assess the current cyber capacity development status of AU states and define priorities. COVID-19 has shifted these priorities significantly. Second – to build a ’sustainment’ component and strategy. For this purpose, each AU member state nominates three experts to be included in the African cyber expert community, as they may know more than any donor or implementing agency could know about specific issues that are pertinent for the particular states and companies. The African cyber expert community also has aid from civil society and the private sector to provide understanding for the state of data protection and the CERT/CSIRT community. Third – to build knowledge modules that have proven to be best practices and ‘a window where a person can look on to the system and is able to select a specific area out of five main ones’.

Additionally, Koyabe touched upon political problems of capacity development: ‘AU Member States’ governments have 5-7 years of work, once the government changes, they start from scratch’.  There is also a problem of frequent rotation of officials in charge, which affects the capacity development programmes.

Finally, Koyabe stressed the importance of timely updating school and university curricula and conducting constant assessments of countries’ human and skills capacities.

The knowledge modules that Koyabe referred to were explained by Ms Katarina Anđelković (Head of Knowledge Ecology, Diplo). She said they worked closely with African policymakers to enhance the work on the modules. They paid a lot of attention to the document base, mapped the GFCE knowledge resources available for cybersecurity and internet governance. Currently, Diplo is working on eight modules that tackle five focus areas of the GFCE and introductory topics. Anđelković pointed to the language barriers, because the majority of the capacity development programmes are available in English only, and there are plans to translate knowledge modules into French. She also raised the concern of duplicating existing capacity development efforts and said that they try to implement those already at hand. In conclusion, she pointed to the problem of ‘training the trainers’ saying that in African countries a lot of people providing capacity development lack proper training.

By Ilona Stadnik

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