The Regional Integration Infrastructure and Trade Programme (RIITP) is working to advance e-commerce and trade in Africa by working on initiatives that promote confidence and trust in Africa’s cyberspace. Specifically, RIITP is pushing for enabling regulatory and policy environments in the context of the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection.

The Convention was endorsed by the AU assembly in 2014 and requires 15 ratifications to enter into force. To date, nine countries have signed the Convention and two – Senegal and Guinea – have ratified it.

On October 11 2017, Dr Towela Nyirenda-Jere and Mr. Abdou Rahman-Mboob briefed the Pan-African Parliament Committee on Transport, Industry, Communication, Energy, Science and Technology. They were accompanied by consultants from EndCode who are working with the NEPAD Agency on a Cybersecurity Assessment framework.

The Chair of the Committee Hon. Aliou Conde of the Republic of Guinea attested to how the Convention had been ratified by his government in recognition of its significance. The Committee expressed concern over the limited awareness and lack of expertise on cyber issues within parliamentary assemblies and called on the NEPAD Agency to devise suitable interventions to address these concerns. The meeting ended with a commitment by the Committee to include cyber-legislation in its work-program for 2018. The NEPAD Agency will in turn continue to work with parliamentary assemblies at national, regional and continental levels.

On 12 October, Dr Towela Nyirenda-Jere was a guest speaker at a Cybersecurity Roundtable in Sandton. The Roundtable focused on the South African cyber security legal and policy landscape as a backdrop for a discussion on collaboration between private, public and civil society to improve South Africa’s efforts related to assessing and responding to cybersecurity issues.

In her presentation, Dr Jere noted that while progress was slow in ratifying the African Union Convention, some member states had started to enact cyber-legislation in line with the provisions of the Convention. South Africa’s cybersecurity bill which is currently under discussion and which was presented during the forum is an example of this. Dr Jere noted that currently only twenty-eight (28) countries in Africa had legislation on electronic transactions, eighteen (18) on consumer protection, twenty-two (22) on privacy and data protection and twenty seven (27) on cybercrime. She stressed that promoting e-commerce in Africa required that legislation in these areas be enacted so that investors, service providers and consumers would have trust in conducting business and accessing services online.

On 13 October, Dr Towela Nyirenda-Jere and Mr Abdou Rahman Mboob had a meeting at Facebook with their Director for Global Public Policy Development Ms Gail Kent and the Public Policy Manager for SADC region, Ms Emilar Gandhi. Ms Kent gave an overview of Facebook and its approach to ensuring safety, security and the privacy of its users online.

Dr Jere spoke about the NEPAD Cybersecurity and Digitalisation Programme, which is in development and the Cybersecurity Assessment framework, which would be presented to ICT ministers in November this year. Discussions then centred on possible collaboration between Facebook and the NEPAD Agency; in the short term, Facebook will explore supporting the Agency’s advocacy work on cybersecurity and personal data protection in the context of facilitating e-commerce. Facebook also offered to provide training for NEPAD staff on productive usage of its various platforms and products. Discussions will continue to explore longer term collaboration.

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