They were speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference, which has attracted more than 1,500 delegates from across Africa and beyond, including government officials, UN representatives, and cyber ecosystems experts.
"As the world increasingly goes online, so do cybercriminals. There is a need for African countries to respond appropriately to safeguard the shared digital future," said Paula Ingabire, Rwandan minister of ICT and Innovation, at the event.
She noted that coming together and sharing experiences are crucial for Africa to foster a collaborative approach to cyber governance.
"Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility. No one is immune to cyber-attacks, and the ability to share information is vital. There is an opportunity to drive economic growth and create wealth by building robust and secure digital infrastructure in Africa," Ingabire emphasized.
With the cyber threat landscape continuously evolving, it is crucial for Africa to establish and implement comprehensive cybersecurity measures to protect themselves and their citizens, said Lacina Kone, chief executive officer of Smart Africa.
He highlighted different Cybertech projects Smart Africa is implementing across the continent. "This year in April, we inaugurated our first cybersecurity innovation center in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, where 60 young minds are undergoing six months of advanced training to become cyber geeks, and we intend to establish many more centers in all regions of Africa," Kone added.
He emphasized the paramount importance of cybersecurity as a foundation for realizing a trusted African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), saying that it is a cornerstone of the continent’s vision to transform Africa into a single digital market.
Kone urged African nations and organizations to stay ahead of the evolving cyber threat landscape by implementing comprehensive measures to safeguard citizens, employees, and customers from potential cyberattacks.
The event, which runs through Wednesday, was organized in partnership with Rwanda’s National Cyber Security Authority, Rwanda Convention Bureau, and Smart Africa.
The conference features fintech, IoT (Internet of Things) and 5G, AI (Artificial Intelligence), critical infrastructure, aviation and space cybersecurity, smart cities, capability building, and sustainability.
The conference also includes an exhibition of innovative cyber companies from various fields, increasing exposure to international and pan-African markets, industry executives, and thought leaders, and encouraging participation in a rapidly growing innovative ecosystem.