Ghana Provides Cybersecurity Model As Threats Multiply
With more than 600 million people online and millions more soon to join them, African nations face growing demand to safeguard cyberspace against hackers, scammers and extremists. Ghana provides a model for how to do that.
In recent years, Ghana has become a regional leader in cybersecurity. The country has achieved that position by creating a civilian-led cybersecurity network rooted in the country’s Ministry of Communication but with key branches in the security and technology sectors.
On the front line of Ghana’s ongoing fight against online threats, the Cyber Security Authority (CSA), created in 2021, and National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-GH) track threats in real time and coordinate the response to major events.
The CSA requires all cybersecurity firms to be licensed and, as of January 1, began auditing owners of critical information infrastructure (CII) to ensure they are operating in line with security mandates.
“Other countries across the continent have much to learn from Ghana’s approach, which has brought tremendous growth in cyber capabilities, enabled Ghana to take action to address rising threats, and reinforced trust between the government and citizen,” Kenneth Adu-Amanfoh, chairman of the Africa Cyber Security and Digital Rights Organization and Nate Allen, a cyber security expert, wrote in a commentary for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.
Adu-Amanfoh and Allen note that Ghana built public confidence in its system by putting it in civilian hands rather than placing national security officials in charge as other countries have done.
Ghana also is among the small number of African nations to join the Budapest and Malabo conventions, both major treaties created to address cybersecurity’s international aspects.
“Leaders must appreciate that Africa must be part of the global Cybersecurity solution set,” Nigerian cybersecurity expert Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola told ADF in an email. Ajijola leads the Strategic Road Map Action Plan Committee of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau.
The Ghana Armed Forces is also playing a key role in the country’s strategy. During Cybersecurity Awareness Month last October, Vice Adm. Seth Amoama, Ghana’s Chief of Defense Staff, said efforts are underway to make sure all personnel understand cyber threats, possible vulnerabilities and their impact on mission readiness. The GAF is transitioning to a “paperless” work environment, making cybersecurity all the more important.
“For us in the military, cyberspace has emerged as the fifth domain of warfare alongside the traditional domains of land, sea, air and space,” Amoama said, according to Ghana Peace Journal. “It is therefore not surprising that terrorists and violent extremists’ groups are using Internet platforms to support their activities.”
Ghana’s approach is shielding its online community from attacks at a time when the rest of the continent is under continual assault, both from within Africa and from outside.
Security experts say that cybercrime costs national economies in Africa $4 billion a year. Interpol estimates 90% of the continent’s internet users have insufficient security on their devices in an environment that sees 700 million cybersecurity threats each year.
With a recent increase in online banking and digital money, financial institutions have become major targets for cyberattacks.
Ghana’s campaign to protect its online community helped reduce cyber fraud in the country from 174 cases in 2018 to fewer than 30 two years later, according to the Bank of Ghana. The Bank of Ghana and the CSA issued a statement in mid-2022 outlining how they would work together to find and stop cyberattacks against financial institutions in the country.
Ghana’s cybersecurity success has boosted it from 89th place to 43rd on the International Telecommunications Union’s Global Cybersecurity Index. It is among just seven African countries in the top 50 globally, joining Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Tanzania and Tunisia.
Ghana’s CSA announced in April 2022 that it would work with The Gambia, Mozambique and Sierra Leone to improve their cybersecurity systems.
Cybersecurity in Africa has the potential to be a $4.5 billion industry and economic driver for many countries, according to Ajijola. Ghana’s approach follows closely the best practices for building a reliable cybersecurity apparatus that the public can trust, he added.
“All relationships require trust rooted in confidence built upon stability and anchored in security,” Ajijola told ADF. “Users will not patronize any platforms, organizations, or people they do not trust or feel safe interacting with.”