Commonwealth Africa Cyber Fellowship launched to strengthen anti-cybercrime efforts

The Commonwealth Secretariat has announced the launch of the Commonwealth Africa Cyber Fellowship programme to support member countries strengthen their cybersecurity and anti-cybercrime laws, policies and institutions.

The fellowship programme, which is being launched 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.

They will also consider options for African countries’ involvement in different anti-cybercrime treaty frameworks, including efforts initiated by the United Nations General Assembly, to create a global cybercrime treaty.

The fellowship was launched during the Commonwealth African Cyber Fellows Conference, which is currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya. During the two-day conference, Fellows will explore solutions required to address the increasingly complex types, scale, and impact of cybercrime in Africa.

Dr Tawanda Hondora, Head of the Rule of Law Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: “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 frameworks.”

Olly Jones, from PGI’s Cyber Capacity Building Specialist, added: “We couldn’t be more delighted that we are handing 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.”

Cybercrime is one of the most pressing challenges plaguing economic activity in Africa. The launch and expansion of the fellowship programme comes at a time when the growth in the size and sophistication of cybercrime in Africa has been unprecedented.

Recent reports estimate that cybercrime has cost the African economy $3.5 billion USD, and as a result, stalled economic and industrial development, destroyed lives and livelihoods, shredded social fabrics, and increased the exploitation of vulnerable communities, including women, girls and the elderly.