How Africa Can Help Solve Cybersecurity Skills Shortage

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As cybersecurity threats grow in complexity and frequency, the demand for skilled professionals has surged.

According to the World Economic Forum, the number of data compromises worldwide increased by 72% in 2023, up from the previous high in 2022.

And the world needs 4 million cybersecurity experts — now.

But Africa, often overlooked in global IT discussions, has been quietly cultivating a robust talent pool, offering the region a unique and substantial impact in leveraging their expertise.

Techopedia speaks to industry experts and explores the possible cybersecurity synergies at play.

Key Takeaways

  • The demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals is surging due to increasing threats as data compromises continue to rise.
  • Africa has built a large talent pool, making it a key emerging player in the cybersecurity field.
  • African tech hubs and educational initiatives are bringing in a new generation of cybersecurity experts.
  • International companies may be overlooking the continent’s abilities to bring unique skills and perspectives into the domain.

Tapping Into Africa’s Emerging Cybersecurity Talent

Over the past decade, the continent has seen a surge in tech hubs, coding schools, and innovation centers, nurturing a new generation of skilled IT professionals who are well-versed in the latest cybersecurity trends and technologies.


The nature of data theft, scams, and other security threats in the region means that African tech graduates have advanced cybersecurity skills that could help fill the Western skills gap.

Hicham El Habti, President of Morocco’s Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), said on the release of its 1.5 Million Leaders study last year:

“Africa is paving the way for new ways of working and thinking, but many business leaders are still failing to tap the immense potential of African talent.”

The study noted that African universities are expected to produce 1.9 million graduates annually by 2030, up from 1.5 million in 2023.

Mervyn Pretorius

Mervyn Pretorius, Group Chief Technology Officer at African business process outsourcer CCI Global told Techopedia:

“There’s such a huge pool of talent there — and I often contrast that against the skill shortage in the developed world because the developed world is crying out for skills.

“The developed world is saying we don’t have people, we’re short of skills, we can’t find enough talent… and you look at any large American company they’ll have delivery centers/teams all over the world, but they don’t go to Africa.

“They historically didn’t go to Africa, and in some respects, I don’t think they’ve understood the opportunity, they maybe haven’t understood the market because there’s no shortage of preconceived ideas.”

African IT graduates are emerging from an environment that makes them keenly aware of the issues facing the cybersecurity industry today.

“With poverty, there are new creative ways of finding money — which in some ways means that when you’re dealing with a cybersecurity professional from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, or Egypt, they will each have nuances that accommodate for the local market’s cybersecurity challenges,” Pretorius said.

“They’re going to have skills and knowledge bases that you might not even find in some of the developed markets because their challenges on the ground have been very different.

“If you were taking a cybersecurity professional from Africa and putting them in a developed market business, they would very quickly have a very long list of things that should be tighter and cleaner.”

Some cybersecurity issues are common across markets, but many African professionals have gained experience in dealing with specific issues in certain markets.

“They are able to say, ‘there were these kinds of exploits occurring with these kinds of vulnerabilities that were causing us pain’.

“Some of those will be the human elements and how social engineering plays out in those markets, and others will be true technical vulnerabilities — gaps in technical processes that cause pain.

“When you look at cyber security on the continent, where companies that have got the scale and the need for it, it is a very sophisticated, very advanced — a highly developed approach to cybersecurity.”

It is important to note that cyberattacks in Africa do not necessarily originate from within Africa — they often come from other parts of the world that perceive African organizations and individuals as vulnerable or soft targets, Pretorius said.

“Sure, there is going to be a proportion of people in Africa committing cybercrime, but it’s actually that Africa is often perceived as a soft target — there’s a perception that they’re not going to have robust programs and they’re not going to understand all the nuances.”

In Western markets, there is more trust and a stronger emphasis on privacy, whereas experience in Africa has emphasized the importance of zero trust.

Pretorius explained:

“In Africa, from a cybersecurity point of view, there’s huge communication between all the different systems — businesses, government agencies, and law enforcement — that you don’t necessarily find in the developed markets.

“They haven’t necessarily had that pressure to develop those systems so that also changes how cybersecurity is approached.

“What you’ll find with a seasoned professional from Africa is that they’re going to have a zero-trust approach and be cautious of the human element as well.

“They’re going to be very strong on those two principles… They’re going to say, ‘what is the human element? What are we missing here? How can this be exploited?’

“In the African market it’s well understood that it’s not just a tech problem; it’s a people problem — the ultimate perpetrators of cybercrime are human beings.

“There’s no difference to regular crime and you cannot divorce the two. And in some respects, when you’re sitting in a developed market, maybe shielded from that because your attackers may be from another country, it can almost psychologically separate the reality of it to a degree.

“But when you’re sitting in a challenging market from that point of view, you’re very alive to that fact. And as a result, your approach, your efforts, and how you’re trying to protect your organisation, protect people’s data and privacy is entirely different.”

Given the experience across many markets, cybersecurity professionals in Africa are in tune with the broader reality of the challenge of protecting data in an increasingly dangerous digital world.

“It is a huge challenge: cybersecurity is a monstrous topic. And the threat of AI is looming in the background,” Pretorius noted.

Artificial Intelligence Poses New Cyber Challenges and Opportunities

Around 99% of large organizations are using artificial intelligence in cybersecurity defense initiatives, according to the 2024 Threat Landscape Report by identity security company CyberArk, which predicts an increase in the frequency and sophistication of identity-related attacks.

The experience in Africa with impersonation-style attempts at security breaches means that companies have clear and strong processes as they are aware of such risks “to the point that many of them may not be vulnerable even to a deepfake because the process is going to be so tightly constructed that it doesn’t allow for that sort of thing to happen.

“Releasing a payment for example would be quite tricky because at some point somebody would have gotten that impersonating email and understand the threat”, Pretorius said.

This also creates opportunities for international companies to hire IT professionals from Africa to meet the rapidly growing demand to fill AI-related roles.

“There’s a huge talent base and depending on what you’re looking for—sometimes you’re looking for people that have got backgrounds in statistics, mathematics or engineering, because you’re not necessarily looking for data scientists or developers; you may be looking for other areas.

“Africa is not producing a shortage of these skills. It’s producing an abundance of these skills in people with master’s degrees in engineering and master’s in maths or statistics.

“Where Africa shines historically is when things like this open up. Africa is really good at running with it and we might still see the continent come out as a big player in the AI space like it did in the telecom space — just ran ahead of everyone else out of necessity of market dynamics.”

Factors Driving African IT Expertise

There are several factors contributing to the rising IT expertise in Africa:

  • Educational initiatives: There are numerous educational programs and institutions across the continent focused on IT and cybersecurity training. Initiatives such as Nigeria-founded Andela, which trains and places software developers with global employers, and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), which offers advanced degrees in IT-related fields, play a role in skills development.
  • Tech hubs and innovation centers: Cities like Nairobi, Lagos, and Cape Town are home to vibrant tech hubs that foster a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, providing IT professionals with opportunities to work on projects and develop practical skills.
  • Remote work: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote work globally. African IT professionals, proficient in remote collaboration tools and platforms, are well-positioned to offer their expertise to companies worldwide.
  • Government and private sector support: Governments and private sector entities across the continent are increasingly investing in IT infrastructure and education. Initiatives such as Nigeria’s Digital Economy Policy and Strategy and Kenya’s Digital Economy Blueprint aim to create a supportive environment for tech innovation and skills development.

How to Leverage African Expertise to Bridge the Global Skills Gap

While investing in Africa can often be viewed as an altruistic endeavour, there is a clear business case for technology companies to harness local skills.

The millions of tech and mathematics graduates in the region speak English, French, or Arabic, and the growing economies are becoming rapidly connected economies, with high levels of mobile phone adoption.

When companies approach these markets for investment, their lens should be focused on the business case, as with any other potential destination.

“If we’re going to invest correctly, we don’t just send two or three people to have a quick look and pay lip service to the idea,” Pretorius said.

“As an example, there a lot of American companies in Ireland because they’ve all made a huge investment in Ireland. And they didn’t just do invest — they researched the market, they understood the local workforce, the local constraints and challenges.

“They took the time to do that, and they need to do the same thing in Africa to understand what those things are per country. Africa is not one homogeneous thing — it’s a collection of very diverse countries with very diverse cultures.”

There are several ways that international companies can work with African professionals in the cybersecurity space:

  • Outsourcing and remote work: Western companies can gain access to Africa’s skilled talent pool by outsourcing cybersecurity tasks or hiring remote IT professionals.
  • Collaborative projects: International collaborations on cybersecurity projects can be mutually beneficial. African professionals can contribute their unique perspectives and innovative solutions.
  • Capacity building: African IT professionals can also play a role in training and mentoring Western counterparts, fostering knowledge exchange and capacity building.

Including African professionals in the global cybersecurity workforce is key to developing comprehensive and effective security strategies that effectively address a wide range of cyber threats.

What Challenges Need to Be Addressed?

Regulatory Frameworks

Clear and comprehensive regulation is key for more international companies to invest in African markets.

“There are things that governments need to do to make that easier. They need to make sure that there’s a ease of doing business — that it’s easy to incorporate a business, to understand local labour law and understand local nuance,” Pretorius said.

“Africa has a good opportunity to get ahead of the AI regulation frameworks. If African governments decide where they’re going to stand on AI and how they intend to handle it from a regulatory point of view moving forward, it could be a big boon for them.

“Those markets that are going to be formally open to it and have a clear policy for how they will address it will have a massive opportunity.”

Infrastructure and Connectivity

While many cities in Africa have robust IT infrastructure, rural areas still face connectivity issues. Addressing these disparities is crucial for tapping into the full potential of IT talent in the region.

Governments in southern African countries have work to do in easing constraints around telecom companies and communication, Pretorius said, as they have been slow to release spectrum and issue licences.

Satellite Internet service provider Starlink has faced some challenges in navigating local legislation in South Africa and the neighbouring countries.

Access to communication infrastructure is key to the success of businesses and individuals in the modern economy, requiring the countries to build out their connectivity.

Recognition of Credentials

Ensuring that African IT qualifications are recognized and valued internationally is essential. Standardizing certification processes can help facilitate this recognition.

International companies looking to hire talent in Africa could work with the local universities in those countries to help them refine their educational programs and course material to align with their requirements, as they do in developed countries.

Cultural and Language Barriers

Overcoming cultural and language barriers is essential for seamless collaboration across borders.

Promoting communication skills and developing an understanding of the different cultural backgrounds and challenges of workers in the region is key to overcoming these barriers.

The Bottom Line

The cybersecurity skills shortage presents a unique opportunity for African IT professionals to participate in the global workforce.

Collaboration and capacity building that integrates African IT talent into the cybersecurity workforce can help to create more robust and innovative security solutions, benefiting businesses and governments worldwide.

International companies hiring talent in African markets could also have a substantial impact on the economic landscape.

Pretorius added:

“You could change an entire continent — and it’s not being done through handing out money, it’s being done through solving real problems for everyone because you would be solving chronic unemployment to a degree while filling gaps you have in your markets.”


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Nicole Willing
Technology Journalist
Nicole Willing
Technology Journalist

Nicole is a professional journalist with 20 years of experience in writing and editing. Her expertise spans both the tech and financial industries. She has developed expertise in covering commodity, equity, and cryptocurrency markets, as well as the latest trends across the technology sector, from semiconductors to electric vehicles. She holds a degree in Journalism from City University, London. Having embraced the digital nomad lifestyle, she can usually be found on the beach brushing sand out of her keyboard in between snorkeling trips.