Roberto CoelhoBy Roberto Coelho|March 14, 2022|6 Minutes|In Opinion


As COVID threat fades the UK sees cyber threats in Africa.

Do you remember a world before ordering food online or wearing a mask in public places? Even as the UK removes COVID restrictions and mask mandates, the pandemic changed the world we live in.

“The world has really changed over the last two years.  We rely on cyber a lot more, this is an opportunity,” says Victoria White, the First Secretary Cyber for Southern Africa, British High Commission, Pretoria.

Globally individuals are more comfortable purchasing everything online. South Africa, a previously hesitant about online shopping was persuaded in the pandemic.

In 2018 there were R14 billion in online sales;  by the end of 2021 online sales had nearly trebled to R40 billion, according to data from Worldwide Worx.

Online retail is not the only boost to the growing technological segment of the South African economy. From SPAC’s listing on the NASDAQ by South African executives, to booming fintech in the ‘Silicon Cape.’

The pandemic brought forward several years growth of the cyber space in South Africa. Fintech firms such as Yoco and Jumo raised significant capital offshore. The bio tech and insure tech sector jumped  on the bandwagon with several inventive companies innovating internationally.

Yet, as South Africa rose above the difficulties of the pandemic and succeeded in the toughest conditions, equally busy were the criminals.

“The brave new world has a dark side as well,” says White.

Cyber-attacks threat detections worldwide were recorded at 230 million from January 2020 to February 2021 from Interpol’s partner, Trend Micro.

This ever-growing threat places the booming local tech industry at risk as the South African government may be behind the curve in assisting and protecting businesses.

However, the beauty of a globalized world is you can have partners from the one side of the world seeking to protect their partners on the other side of the world.

“An attack that happens in the UK can impact any country in Africa, any country in the world and vice versa.”

With risks such as these, the United Kingdom has deployed several measures to ensure business partners are protected and assisted globally.

“I am a cyber diplomat” says White.

White spoke at the Cyber Intelligence Africa 2022 Conference in Sandton, South Africa. She shared the United Kingdom’s vision and explained the assistance provided to Commonwealth African countries.

White describes how the United Kingdom values democracy, free speech and privacy of all citizens and intended on protecting these rights in the cyber space. On more than one occasion she expressed the deliberate intention of assisting Commonwealth African countries and businesses from risks against these values.

“We believe in cyber diplomacy and a free open-source cyber space,” she says.

“There is an explicit link between security and prosperity.”

For businesses to prosper in the world of cyber threats security is a requirement, not a suggestion. Furthermore, security cannot be created in isolated bubbles, rather collaboratory groups.

From fast growing tech start-ups to established mom and pop stores and mega-corporations’ isolation is a losing game.

White believes international partnership is the solution.

“We cannot battle threats alone, partnership is required. International partnerships are completely woven throughout the new strategy,” she says.

If South Africa and other African nations fully use this partnership, they should be able to avoid mistakes the UK made while feeding off the established infrastructure.

There is a direct interest for both parties, Commonwealth African governments and entrepreneurs will be protected and allowed to grow. The United Kingdom is reassured of cyber safety in partnering countries where its businesses transact.

“We do not want to do capacity building out of the kindness of our hearts. This is because we are also threatened, there is a direct interest in growing with partners in Africa.”

This is not a situation of the United Kingdom coming to rescue Africa, this is a profitable partnership for both parties.

The program in place is the UK Digital Access Programme which includes investments, sustainable digital ecosystems, training and much more.

By working with Commonwealth African countries, the United Kingdom is providing a foundation for local entrepreneurs and governments to build upon.

As Aliko Dangote once said “Africa is the fastest growing economic region in the world. This is the right place to be.”

Cyber security is part of encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in Africa. Let’s work towards it.