Information and communication technology, cyber-security and counterterrorism in Africa

Francisca Nonyelum Ogwueleka and Aniche Delight Aniche


Africa is the continent with the largest population of citizens within the youthful age bracket, with 200 million people (UNDP, 2017). Since the early 2000s, the activities and energies of the youth catalyse the demand and uptake in Information Communication Technology (1CT). They upset and create a shifting balance in the socio-economic structure and security configuration of societies across Africa in an unprecedented manner (Symantec and AU Commission, 2016). With poorly managed human and natural resources leaving poverty in its wake, this constellation of youthful energies in drove into the ICT sector — which, in Africa and most of the developing world, remains poorly managed and unregulated — exhibit increasing risk propensity and responsiveness to opportunities giving oft a myriad of positive and negative effects, even while ICT development in the continent encounters many challenges on its path to maturity (UNDP, 2017).

While their responsiveness to opportunities is expanding the ICT ecosystem, setting it on its path to natural growth, their risk propensity prompts, as a matter of critical urgency, the close monitoring, understanding, exploration and mitigation of the rapidly evolving global cybersecurity and cyber terrorism domains especially as they impact Africa (ITU, 2016). With the virtual lifestyle closing the gap with reality, more aspects of an average life increasingly depend on ICT hence adding more resource to the “Toolbox of Threat Actors” in a violent world, a fact alluded to by former United States President, Barack Obama in his 2015 speech on Cyber Security,

.. .one of the greatest paradoxes of our time is that the very technology that empower us to do great good can be used to undermine us and inflict great harm. The same ICT that help us make our military the most advanced in the world are targeted by hackers from China and Russia who go after our defence contractors and systems that are built tor our troops. The same social media we use in government to advocate for democracy and human right around the world can also be used by terrorists to spread hateful ideologies, so these threats are a challenge to our National security (Caiazzo, 2015).

This phenomenon is exacerbated by the vague definitions and interpretations of the various branches of “Security”, which are beginning to converge or relate deeply with 1CT and Cyber Security (UNDP, 2017). Even with expanding advantage for Threat Actors, thanks to 1CT, existing evidence tilts the balance in favour of the enormous benefits of 1CT in many other areas. This perhaps crystallises that the only logical path to a solution in the shifting socioeconomic structure and security configuration of societies — made possible in part by the emergence of 1CT — leads in the direction ot living with but guarding against the impact of the expanding advantages of Threat Actors in the digital era through the instrumentality of 1CT, cybersecurity and counterterrorism rooted in well-articulated technical principles, policy framework (legislation), and cooperation.

Besides the contribution of ICT to the “Toolbox of Threat Actors”, the existing socioeconomic structure, power balance and security configurations across Africa are laden with injustice, depravity, ignorance, weak institutions, and leadership failure. These unfortunate but salvageable realities have become, in addition to the potentials of ICT, significant mobilisation instruments towards the endless security misfortunes of most African societies (Yonazi et al., 2014). Appreciating these factors and their roles is critical to expanding the discussion for a meaningful understanding and possible anticipation ot the maturity direction ot ICT, Cyber Security and Cyber Terrorism ecosystem in Africa, and for viable ICT-driven Counterterrorism and Security approach, policies and norms that can mitigate both physical and virtual threats.

This Chapter presents a conceptualisation of ICT, Cyber Security and Cyber Terrorism to guide the understanding of their rising significance in the 21st century. It also provides a background on ICT, Cyber Security and Cyber Terrorism development in Africa by discussing the emerging ICT and cybersecurity ecosystem in Africa comparing existing infrastructures, architecture, gaps, and geographic maturity to developed countries. The Chapter further reviews existing trends and implications of ICT and Cyber Security in a violent world considering the various instruments of mobilisation as well as the role of different digital platforms in various global security crises. The Chapter also traces the deficits of Science, Technology, ICT and Cyber Security in Africa, highlighting existing whitespaces, anticipated growth and the way forward for Africa’s ICT, Cyber Security and ICT-Driven Counterterrorism in a violent world. Finally, the chapter offers some policy blueprints tor transforming and improving Africa’s preparedness for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency through ICT and cybersecurity. There is scope tor ICT to provide a robust platform for boosting Africa’s resilience against terrorism, organised violence, and cyber-crime.

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