• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Cybersecurity: The role of AI in safeguarding Africa’s digital future

Cybersecurity: The role of AI in safeguarding Africa’s digital future

The digital space in Africa has transitioned from the late 1990s, when internet access was a rare luxury, to today’s surge in connectivity.

As of 2022, the continent has approximately 570 million internet users, more than double the number in 2015 according to Ookla data.

However, this progress has brought significant challenges, particularly the rise in cyber threats affecting individuals, governments, and industries across the continent.

Cybercrime has negatively impacted the cybersecurity space, compelling financial institutions to adapt swiftly. With an increasing number of Africans going online and economies and societies becoming more reliant on technology, the cyber-attack surface for criminals has expanded. This has made cybercrime one of the fastest-emerging threats across Africa.

According to the first INTERPOL Africa Cyberthreat Assessment Report released in 2021, the financial impact of cybercrime in the region was estimated to be over $4 billion, accounting for about 10 per cent of Africa’s total gross domestic product.

Although African countries and businesses have taken steps to build more secure digital economies and protect their communities online, there are still gaps to be filled.

According to Kaspersky ICS CERT¹, in Q3 2023, Industrial Control Systems (ICS) computers in Africa experienced attacks on 32% of systems. Specific country figures include 22% in South Africa, 28% in Kenya, and 25% in Nigeria. ICS are critical computerized systems that oversee industrial processes such as manufacturing and energy production.

“Addressing issues like poor digital literacy, inadequate cyber preparedness, and a general lack of good cyber hygiene practices is becoming increasingly urgent,” Prince Efue, Managing Director of Efuelite Solutions (Compliance Planet), in a recent interview.

Read also: Harnessing renewable energy: The transformative role of AI and cybersecurity in the global south

Efue, through Compliance Planetcombats financial crimes and ensures regulatory compliance in the financial sector, employing Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Machine Learning (ML)

“Sustainable solutions to cybersecurity challenges in Nigeria and Africa require a comprehensive approach that includes education, regulatory improvements, technological investments, and enhanced collaboration,” he told BD Sunday. “I believe leveraging cutting-edge technology such as AI, ML, NLP, etc. will help address the challenges of cybercrime and other related roadblocks in the financial sector,”

“Solving these challenges requires a coordinated effort involving investment in resources, enhanced training and awareness programs, stronger regulatory frameworks, and improved collaboration both within and across borders,” he added

Furthermore, industry experts support this approach, noting that AI can serve as a crucial tool in identifying scams and security threats, detecting unusual behaviour, and analysing communication patterns, all of which are necessary to curb and manage fraud.

Amit Mehta, Vice President and Cybersecurity Consulting Practice Lead at Mastercard, highlighted the importance of AI in enhancing consumer trust, especially in digital banking.

“AI is one of such innovations that digital banking cannot afford to overlook, given its disruptive potential in the financial services ecosystem,” Metha said. “It can address key issues in digital banking, such as automating customer responses but there is a need for assessment before the deployment.”

Similarly, Efue said that, “The integration of Artificial Intelligence will also help to swiftly analyze vast volumes of financial data with unprecedented precision and efficiency. Through robust pattern recognition and anomaly detection, the software promptly identifies potential instances of money laundering or financial fraud, enabling compliance professionals to take proactive measures to curtail illicit activities.”

He continued, “The incorporation of Natural Language Processing helped Compliance Planet discern and extract meaningful insights from unstructured textual data, such as regulatory documents, transaction records, and communication logs. This has proven indispensable in identifying concealed indicators of financial crime, facilitating in-depth investigations into suspicious activities, and unravelling complex money laundering schemes.”