IGF 2021 WS #18 Cyber Diplomacy in Africa and Digital Transformation

Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (10:15 UTC) - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (11:45 UTC)
Ballroom A

Organizer 1: Margaret Nyambura Ndung'u, African Union Commission - PRIDA TA
Organizer 2: Adil Ismail Sulieman, The African Union Commission
Organizer 3: Harimino Lalatiana Rakotondrainibe, i RENALA ( Research and Education Network for Academic Learning Activities)

Speaker 1: Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola , Private Sector, African Group
Speaker 2: Moctar Yedaly, Intergovernmental Organization, African Group
Speaker 3: Nnenna Ifeanyi-Ajufo, ,
Speaker 4: Vladimir Radunovic, Civil Society, Eastern European Group

Additional Speakers

5.  Pearse O’Donohue, Director Future Networks, DG CONNECT


Margaret Nyambura Ndung'u, Intergovernmental Organization, African Group

Online Moderator

Adil Ismail Sulieman, Intergovernmental Organization, African Group


Harimino Lalatiana Rakotondrainibe, Technical Community, African Group


Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Cybersecurity practices and mechanisms: What are the good cybersecurity practices and international mechanisms that already exist? Where do those mechanisms fall short and what can be done to strengthen the security and to reinforce the trust?
International standards: How should international standards address the different requirements and preferences of governments and citizens in different countries?
Additional Policy Questions Information: 1) Are African Diplomats and senior leadership including parliamentarians well informed on the role of Cyber – Diplomacy in enriching their work in their respective mandates? What opportunities does Cyber-Diplomacy present? 2) To date, only 10 African countries have ratified the Malabo Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection. Less than 10 countries have established the office of the national data commissioner, a critical office under the Malabo Convention. Could cyber diplomacy be the panacea to unlock this ratification that ultimately aims at continental harmonization of related strategies, regulations and policies that would promote and support the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) and African Single Market (ASM) 3) How should the UN Frameworks for Responsible State Behavior and CBMs in Cyberspace be implemented in the African context which has diverse digital development status. 4) Are African states ready for regulation of digital space through International law? 5) The role of capacity development in building trust and confidence in the field of ICT. What kind of capacity development programs should Africa be focusing on?

The session will focus on Cyber Diplomacy for Africa’s Senior Leadership. This workshop will be a forum to discuss Cyber Diplomacy in the context of emerging technologies and how well Africa is positioned to adverse her course in addressing global challenges and opportunities in cyberspace. For instance, despite the high-level political momentum around the AfCFTA, its ultimate success depends on African states ratifying a legal instrument to govern data flow, electronic transaction and cybersecurity towards the fulfillment of the untapped potential of AfCFTA. The Malabo Convention shall be discussed and the role of African leadership in hastening ratifications by member states highlighted. The workshop will highlight the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital space and the role of cyber diplomacy in navigating through the public and private sector, media, academia and the civil society to ultimately create a safe and trusted online space for all to flourish.


9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: Diplomacy in the digital space is eminent in the current digital era where social, political and economic activities have gone to cyber. Effective and efficient cyber operations, management and governance to support the ongoing digital transformation in Africa can only happen in a trusted, secure and stable cyber space. Successful implementation of Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and AU Agenda 2063 aspirations calls for sufficient trust, security and stability in the digital space. In particular, goal 9 focuses on building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation, goal 10 focus on reduced inequalities within and among countries, goal 16 focuses on promotion of peace, justice and strong Institutions while goal 17 focuses on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. For justice, peace and global stability to flourish, cyber diplomacy has a great role in ensuring informed confidence with the security of infrastructure and integrity of the processes to ensure that data and information derived along value chains is trustworthy. Moreover, exposing African leadership to cyber diplomacy will ensure effective and efficient engagement in the digital space, using digital technologies as tools and/or means of cooperation and inclusion, ultimately ensuring equality for all.


Is Cyber Diplomacy the bridge to Digital transformation in Africa? The workshop seeks to explore the role of cyber diplomacy in transforming Africa's digital landscape. The Workshop is based on the AUC work in the Policy and Regulation Initiative for Digital Africa (PRIDA) project in the broader theme of trust, security and stability. The session will create awareness on cyber diplomacy issues and how best Africa should position herself to reap the full benefits of digital transformation. The session will highlight the challenges of African senior leadership in engaging in cyber diplomacy and the opportunities presented through fully engaging and taking a lead in the digital space. This is in consideration of digital development in the continent including the fact that trading under the African Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) started on 1 January 2021. This calls for awareness creation and capacity development in the area of Digital trust and cyber security; Cross boarder data flow; Data management; and Governance practices all of which will unleash the African digital economy. PRIDA is a joint initiative of the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The project aims at enabling the African continent to reap the benefits of digitalization.

Expected Outcomes

1. The workshop deliberations shall inform African National, Regional and Continental IGFs and PRIDA capacity building initiatives across the continent. 2. Through the workshop, awareness will be created on the role of Cyber Diplomacy in hastening the ratification of the Malabo convention by Members states. 3. Good practices, opportunities and challenges of cyber diplomacy in modern times shall be explored.

This will be a 90 minutes’ panel discussion. There will be five panelists and two moderators. The main moderator will have 5 minutes to introduce the session and the panelists.   After which  panelists will be asked questions that will be focused towards broad issues highlighted for  40 minutes.  The floor will be opened to the public for a Q&A session that will take 35 minutes-priority will be given to the questions asked through the Q&A and chat sessions. The panelist will then have 10 minutes to make closing remarks. It is approximated that the session will have close to 100 participants

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Cyber Diplomacy is needed to reach the uniformization of strategy and policy on cybersecurity all over Africa and push for the ratification of the Malabo convention for more states in Africa.

Digital cooperation and cyber diplomacy across borders at the international and intra-national levels are key elements for the protection of an open, free and secure internet. Any point of failure will impact the global network.
Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Capacity building on cyber governance, cybersecurity, and cyber diplomacy is a mandate for Africa. Decision-makers and politicians should be on-board for cyber diplomacy and cyber security matters.

Digital strategy should be included in each African member state national strategy
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

The workshop which was held on the 8th December was moderated onsite by Dr. Margaret Nyambura Ndung'u and online by Mr. Adil Sulieman.

The panellists were:

1. Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola - Chair of AUCSEG and former commissioner, Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace

2. Dr. Nnenna Ifeanyi-Ajufo - Vice chair of AUCSEG, Senior lecturer, Law and Technology at Swansea University, UK

3. Mr. Vladimir Radunović – Diplo Foundation

4. Mr. Pearse O’Donohue, Director Future Networks, DG CONNECT

The Rapporteur was Ms. Rakotondrainibe Harimino Lalatiana

The onsite moderator placed the discussion in the context of the digital transformation strategy launched by the AU in 2020 to 2023, where there is a need to build trust and ensure there is a liable and secure infrastructure across the continent. She highlighted that while The Malabo convention on cybersecurity and data protection was launched in 2014 to ensure safety and privacy online, less than 15 countries across Africa had ratified. She noted that Cyber Diplomacy works by building strategic partnerships across social, economic, and cultural dimensions of development.

The following were the discussed questions

1. Why is Cyber Diplomacy important for the continent? Should we as a continent be interested with issues related to Cyber Diplomacy? What opportunities does Cyber-Diplomacy present?

2. Could cyber diplomacy be the panacea to unlock the ratification of the Malabo convention? Are African states ready for regulation of digital space through International law and cooperation?

3. How can the African states prepare for Cyber diplomacy, participate and follow UN processes and ultimately implement the outcome of the processes

4. In the 2020 EU Cybersecurity strategy the EU presented a series of actions related to global Internet security. How could African stakeholders be involved in the overall effort to increase Internet security?

5. What is the relevance of digital cooperation in digital governance strategies including policy making, the African Digital Transformation Agenda and other continental efforts such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), African Single Market (ASM) and the AU Agenda 2063 aspirations?

6. Are African Diplomats and senior leadership including parliamentarians well informed on the role of Cyber – Diplomacy in enriching their work in their respective mandates?

7. Africa has diverse digital development status. What are the potential challenges in implementing the UN Framework(s) for Responsible State Behavior and Confidence Building Measures in Cyberspace?

8. Can you share with us ongoing initiatives, if any, by EU to promote cyber-diplomacy in developing countries? If so, are there Africa specific initiatives?

Key highlights:

  • Cyber diplomacy is important for Africa because norms (soft laws) created in cyberspace will impact us over the long term and Africa should be meaningfully at the table to discuss those norms as like others must live, in the future, with the precedents set and decisions that are made today.
  • The continent should be interested in issues related to Cyber Diplomacy because cyberspace like any global environment is only as strong as its weakest link, and Africa must NOT be the weak link.
  • There are direct interests in investing in Cybersecurity. The Cyber Security solution market across Africa will be anywhere between 10 and 15 billion dollars US and soon this field will offer 3,1 million vacant jobs. Thus, Africa must develop a generation of cyber diplomats that will be sufficiently informed to address the rules and the norms, and interaction among the states in cyber.
  • Cyber Diplomacy can be much needed to push for the ratification of the Malabo convention to have uniformity of strategy and policy all over the continent. -Africa is more disadvantaged when speaking about cyber diplomacy because we still lack the digital capacity to compete at the international level and participate in cyber diplomacy discussions. Furthermore, Africa is diverse and each state has its context, which influences the ideology and capacity to build the implication for dialogue and implication for cybersecurity measures. Taking the example of the Malabo convention, the failure or refusal to ratify this convention may have political dimensions rooted in our diversity (political, cultural, historical) in addition to the lack of capacity despite many initiatives, confidence building measures and capacity building, led by the AUC.  The preparation for Cyber diplomacy in Africa lies in two strategies:
    • Firstly, by ensuring buy-in from African leaders and decision-makers to ensure cybersecurity is on the agenda. This can be achieved by reconnecting or reframing cybersecurity to real issues.
    • Secondly, by dealing with human resources and capacity as Africa lacks informed resources which influenced their participation at the international level. There should also be better coordination at the national level between ministries and more inclusion by getting people who are not always officials on board.
  • The Internet is a global and unified ecosystem and should remain as it is. That is why it is important not to think of it as only a national or regional issue to avoid internet fragmentation. We should avoid thinking that the internet is a decentralized and distributed network, and as such is resilient without any point of failure. Governments and multistakeholder from Africa must be allowed to be fully engaged in any issues addressed on the global internet.
  • On the relevance of digital cooperation in digital strategies it was noted that diplomatic efforts will impact dialogues and negotiations for cybersecurity based on the capacity of countries. The discussions on digital cooperation should not only be limited to external international cooperation but extended to inter-cooperation.
  • It was note that there seems to be the misperception that Cyber Diplomacy is not an African problem to solve. This is compounded by a lack of awareness, a consistent approach, and consensus on cyber norms. To overcome this, we should encourage research to support African Parliamentarians and ultra-high level strategic decision- makers in drafting inter-linked and coherent norms and policies as well as the formation of global coalitions of cyber professionals and a mentoring ecosystem. Africa must articulate its Philosophy, Ethics, Policy, Strategies, and accountability frameworks across the spectrum of Cyber Diplomacy.
  • Regarding the challenges for the implementation of the UN Framework, it was noted that the main challenge is the perception that the UN Framework is only for big players in cyber diplomacy. Furthermore, this framework is only about a conflict, in essence, it sets the agenda and builds capacity, it is a geopolitical position, which boosts political awareness at a national level to take measures.
    • Among the ongoing initiatives, by the EU to promote cyber-diplomacy in developing countries includes:
  • “Cyber direct” project: contribute to the development of a secure international cybersphere, to support the principles of single open stable free secure cyberspace which adheres to the values of democracy and human rights. The initiatives promote the UN framework for responsible states' behaviour to ensure the stability of cyberspace.
  • In 2022, there will be an initiative that promotes open and free internet in Africa working with African partners. The vision is to assist in physical connection for millions of people and the need for cybersecurity to protect people.
  • The workshop ended with a round of questions with a point of reflection on:
    • Whether Africa needs to take part in Cyber Security as a priority knowing the fact that it is not yet digitized, with a lack of access and behind in terms of technologies? o What if cybersecurity doesn’t exist?
    • How do we build young cyber diplomats?
    • Do we have a cyber-diplomacy model that can be applied in other sub-regions?
  • It was noted that being the least digitized continent does not mean that we do not need cybersecurity considering that the new users of the internet are the most vulnerable and need to be protected. - we must develop our digital capacity based on teaching and research in the South.
  • All societies require trust to optimally function, and cybersecurity is a foundation to build trust in the digital society - We must think about the uniformity of the cybersecurity framework all over Africa.