Private: The Malabo Convention entered into force on 8 June: Africa’s move towards shared data and cybersecurity standards and rules

The Malabo Convention, a regional treaty on cybersecurity in Africa, has entered into force on 8 June with ratifications from 15 out of 55 African Union member states. However, influential African countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, and Ethiopia have not yet ratified the Convention. The African Union Commission needs to encourage more countries to ratify the Convention and provide capacity building for its implementation. The adoption of the Malabo Convention by all African states would promote a unified digital approach with shared cybersecurity and data standards.

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The Malabo Convention, also known as the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection, has finally entered into force on 8 June, after being ratified by Mauritania on 9 May 2023 (15th ratification as required by the Convention). The Convention chooses an innovative approach to creating a unique link between electronic transactions, cybersecurity and data protection. An interplay between these three areas is critical for the digital space. It remains to be seen if this governance innovation will take off or if it will be found obsolete as three policy areas are increasingly regulated separately.

The Malabo convention faces a few major challenges, including:

  • It is not ratified by the major digital powers on the African continent: South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Algeria, Ethiopia, and Morocco.
  • As it was drafted in 2011, which is in the digital realm far past, it remains to be seen if it needs to be updated in the context of digital developments over the last 12 years.
  • Need to synchronise with national and regional legislation adopted in the field of cybersecurity, data protection, and e-commerce.

In conclusion, the Malabo Convention has entered into force with limited ratifications from African Union member states. More ratifications, especially from big African digital economies, are necessary for the Convention to be acknowledged as an important regional treaty. Ultimately, the adoption of the Malabo Convention by all African states would promote a unified continent with shared data and cybersecurity standards.

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List of ratifications of the Malabo convention:
Angola (11 May 2020), Cape Verde (5 February 2022), Côte d’Ivoire (3 April 2023), Congo (23 October 2020), Ghana (3 June 2019), Guinea (16 October 2018), Mozambique (21 January 2020), Mauritania (9 May 2023), Mauritius (14 March 2018), Namibia (1 February 2019), Niger (16 March 2022), Rwanda (21 November 2019), Senegal (16 August 2016), Togo (19 October 2021), and Zambia (24 March 2021)