There has been an increase in internet use in Africa over the past decades. This is despite restrictions by some governments on the continent.

Globally, 4.1 billion people used the internet in 2019, indicating a 5.3 percent increase from the previous year, according to the recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report.

ITU estimated that in 2019 in the least developing countries, only 19 percent of individuals were using the internet, compared to 87 percent in developed countries. 

On this scale, Africa ranked lowest, with only 28 percent of individuals using the internet, compared to Europe, which ranked the highest, with 83 percent of individuals using the internet. 

This same year, the African continent had the highest percentage of offline population in the world, with the majority of offline countries being in Central, Eastern and Western Africa.

Despite the disparities on internet penetration in Africa and other regions, the former is proving to be vulnerable to cybercrime.

This is because most of the Africans who are being exposed to the internet, due to a number of factors such as wide internet coverage, lack basic technical knowledge on using it thereby making themselves easy targets for transnational cybercriminals.

“Sources also mention that 18 607 cyber security incidents were counted in 2011 compared to 564 in 2000,” reads part of the Online African Organized Crime from Surface to Darkweb report released on Thursday by Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization. 

“In 2016, approximately 24 million malware incidents targeted Africa. By 2017, malware, spam emails, botnets and software piracy, among other crimes, were reported in many African countries.”

The report noted that the inadequate or the absence of cybercrime laws and under-documentation of the crime in Africa were impeding the fight against cybercrime. 

“On the continental level, in 2014, the African Union (AU) adopted the Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection. However, only 14 of the 55 AU member countries had signed the convention, and only seven ratified it, by January 2020,” reads the report.

“The convention needs to be ratified by at least 15 member countries to enter into force, meaning it is not in force yet. This shows that cybersecurity is still not perceived as a necessity by many African countries which further exacerbates the problem.”

African nations are losing millions of dollars to cybercrime as in 2017, the economic loss on the continent due to cyber and cyber-enabled crime reached $3.5 billion, according to the Interpol report.

In Nigeria, this number reached $649 million and $210 million in Kenya while South Africa also reported major economic losses due to cyberattacks, reaching around $157 million.

The cybercrimes in Africa include child sexual abuse and exploitation, environmental crimes, human trafficking, weapons and drug trafficking and illicit minerals trade among others.

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