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Can a UN Treaty Solve Africa’s Cybersecurity Problem – or Give Rise to Unintended Risks?

Negotiations on a United Nations cybercrime treaty have been ongoing since May 2021 and, if passed by the General Assembly, could become a crucial legal framework for the prevention of cybercrime globally. While cyberattacks are on the rise globally, having increased by 125% through 2021, Africa faces particular challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. The continent lacks digital security infrastructure, with around 90% of African firms operating without implementing the necessary security protocols. The economic pain inflicted by cyberattacks is already grave, imposing an estimated cost of almost $600m a year on South Africa and around $500m on Nigeria, the continent’s two biggest economies. The UN cybercrime treaty aims to lighten the burden, but the road to completion is a long one. Complex negotiations on nine chapters, 60 articles and hundreds of amendments are underway. National representatives are currently meeting in New York to discuss the draft text of the convention, which is the basis for the final treaty. Negotiations will continue into early 2024, with the aim of adopting the treaty during the UN General Assembly in September 2024, according to an analysis from Chatham House.