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The State of African Cybercrime in 2014

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, cybercrime in Africa has reached all-time high levels.

Unfortunately, unrest, whether it be to overthrow an oppressive regime or not, brings with it an overall increase in violence and crime in an area. This is due to the fact that there are now susceptible cracks in governance and regulation enforcement, as authorities are distracted by the major upheaval in front of them, rather than paying attention to opportunistic criminals. Africa’s recent political unrest in certain countries has allowed the continent to fall prey to exactly this criminal phenomenon.

Organised crime rife in Africa

Civil conflicts, political instability and social unrest in African countries ranging from Libya in the North to Syria in the West, have produced a path to democracy that has allowed organized crime syndicates to easily and effectively join the procession. Since the main aim of all this unrest is to change the rule of the country, the control of the state at this time is weakened, and organized crime has taken advantage of this. These crime syndicates have taken many forms in the different countries, with violent unrest in places like Syria opening up the market for illegal weapons, smuggling in of contraband, as well as increased drug trafficking.

Cybercrime Units

Since a lot of the civil unrest has been organised online, this has increased opportunities for cyber conmen in Africa. South Africa was recently declared the country with the third largest amount of cybercrime in the world, with the Arab Spring causing officials to clamp down on the definition of cybercrime in northern Africa. East African countries have blamed violence elicited through social media on cybercrime, and police chiefs in each country recently pledged to setting up cybercrime units in their countries in order to curb this growing criminal offence.

Taking steps to curb cyber crime

The first East African police chief conferences was held at the Paraa Safari lodge in Murchison falls national park recently, where a main talking point was the heightened violence of recent. The heads of police present at the conference acknowledged that growing cybercrime was not only a major threat to each country’s trade ability, but also to national security, as cybercrimes that resulted in the overturning of certain African governments during the Arab Spring is viewed by the police as verging on terrorism.

The police chiefs present at the conference from the member countries, namely Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, all pledged to work together, following a centralised framework, to combat cyber-crime in East Africa. Alongside this, the African Working Group on Cybercrime for Heads of Units, which met on the 27th February 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda, also aims to help fight cyber-crime in INTERPOL’s “Zone 5”, which consists of Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The working group strives to provide law enforcers in these countries with a central platform on which they can all communicate with each other, sharing knowledge, expertise, as well as discuss strategy. Practically, the working group is there to facilitate:

  • the sharing of knowledge and best practices in regard to cybercrime investigation as well as digital forensic procedures and tools;
  • better teamwork between the national cybercrime units and their INTERPOL National Central Bureaus;
  • raised awareness on the operational aspects of international assistance and mutual assistance;
  • training on the legal aspects to heads of cybercrime units, of cyber investigations (such as evidential standards, admissibility of evidence and proving guilt).

The rapid technological growth in Africa does bring with it added opportunities for organised crime, and so far Africa has not been ready to handle this threat. The growth in cybercrime has taken most African countries and their law enforcers by surprise, but that is not the end of the story. This increased connectivity is not just available to the criminals, but also to the law enforcers, and the more the different bureaus interact with each other, the better equipped they’ll be to curb organised crime online.

For further information, please go to these sites:

  1. Regional Police Chiefs Agree to Fight Cyber Crime”, Ugandian Network, 15 January. Available at: http://ugandaradionetwork.com/a/story.php?s=60089
  2. Poisoning the Arab Spring: emerging criminal markets”, The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Available at: http://www.globalinitiative.net/poisoning-the-arab-spring/
  3. African Working Group on Cybercrime for Heads of Units (East Africa)”, Interpol. Available at: http://www.interpol.int/News-and-media/Events/2014/African-Working-Group-on-Cybercrime-for-Heads-of-Units2/African-Working-Group-on-Cybercrime-for-Heads-of-Units-East-Africa
  4. Abdullah alsaidi, “Three Years After the Arab Spring, the War Between Hope and Despair Continues”, Global Observatory, 21 May 2014. Available at: http://theglobalobservatory.org/analysis/744-three-years-after-the-arab-spring-the-war-between-hope-and-despair-continues.html




David Okwara

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