New Roles for New Skills: Drawing upon African Technologists to Build the AfCFTA

Unlocking the potential of the African Digital Single Market (DSM) under the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) requires addressing emerging AI cybersecurity risks. This policy brief explores how African technologists can contribute to shaping robust AI cybersecurity policies that bridge regulatory gaps and support the successful implementation of AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA aims to integrate African economies, creating a harmonised market of 1.3 billion people. The establishment of a DSM is crucial to this integration and aligns with the AU’s Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa. However, the use of advanced technologies, such as AI, introduces cybersecurity risks that can undermine trade activities within the continent.

To ensure trusted market activity and seamless intra-continental trade, innovative collaboration with technical stakeholders is essential. Engaging African technologists in shaping technically-sound AI cybersecurity policies is crucial for fostering trust and enabling trusted marketplaces within the AfCFTA.

The current African cybersecurity landscape reveals significant disparities, with many countries lacking national and sector-specific computer incident response teams (CIRTs) and adequate provisions for safeguarding critical infrastructure. Moreover, the absence of comprehensive cybersecurity strategies and reporting mechanisms hinders timely detection and response to cyber threats.

To address these challenges, African nations must prioritise cybersecurity by establishing robust measures, implementing effective AI-risk assessment frameworks, and fostering international collaborations. Technologists play a pivotal role by informing policy targets, designing cybersecurity standards bodies, conducting risk assessments, and shaping a technically informed regulatory environment for the DSM.

By engaging technologists throughout the policy formation process, policymakers can leverage their expertise to provide guidance and develop effective regulatory standards. The involvement of technologists is crucial for building trust in the digital economy and facilitating digital trade within the AfCFTA.

Suggested citation

Omar, N., & Timcke, S. (2023). New roles for new skills: Drawing upon African technologists to build the AfCFTA. Policy brief. Research ICT Africa.

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