The capacity of Commonwealth Africa member countries to fight cybercrime has received a major boost with the launch of the Commonwealth Africa Cyber Fellowship programme.
The Commonwealth Secretariat said the cyber fellowship will support the strengthening of cybersecurity and anti-cybercrime laws, policies and institutions in member countries.
The fellowship programme, launched during the Commonwealth African Cyber Fellows Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in partnership with Protection Group International (PGI) and with financial backing from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), will facilitate collaboration between cybersecurity and cybercrime experts from Commonwealth member countries in Africa and empower them by providing access, exposure, and training.
The launch follows the adoption of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration during the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government, which recognised that a free, open, inclusive and secure cyberspace can help to foster economic growth for all communities as part of efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
With Africa having lost $3.5 billion to cybercrime according to recent estimates, resulting in stalled economic and industrial development, destruction of lives and livelihoods, and increased exploitation of vulnerable communities, the launch and expansion of the fellowship programme is timely as it would help facilitate collaboration between member countries.
Tawanda Hondora, head of the Rule of Law Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said the Commonwealth Secretariat constantly seeks new ways to assist member countries to build their capacity to fully leverage the benefits of the digital age.
“This flagship programme will create a robust community of excellence in Africa that leads the design and implementation of digital technologies and effective cybersecurity and anti-cybercrime framework,” Hondora said.
“We couldn’t be more grateful that our collaboration with the FCDO and PGI has helped the Commonwealth Secretariat establish the fellowship programme, which will help us to learn from the fellows, who are experts in their fields of practice, and facilitate collaboration between member countries.”
The fellowship, formerly called the African Cyber Experts Fellowship, was established in 2017 by PGI with financial support from the UK’s FCDO as a network of cyber security policy experts. Following a one-year transition period, the fellowship will now be housed and managed by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Olly Jones, from PGI’s Cyber Capacity Building Specialist, said they were delighted to hand over to the Commonwealth Secretariat “a vibrant network whose members are drawn from 12 Commonwealth member countries”.
“It has offered opportunities for learning and sharing of experience between experts drawn from governments, industry and academia,” Jones said.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal sovereign states. Its combined population is 2.5 billion, of which more than 60 percent is aged 29 or under. The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights. Its work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt, and inequality.