Ministers from ECOWAS Member States in charge of Telecommunications/Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Post, met virtually on November 26, 2020 to deliberate and firm up a common position on laying the foundation to support a secure cyber environment in the region.
The meeting considered, among others, the report of the experts on the subject matter, stemming from regional instruments prepared by the ECOWAS Commission in support of the regional transformation process towards securing the common digital market for growth and development.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecommunications and Information Technologies, Dr. Zouli Bonkoungou, restated at the opening of the meeting the prime position of ICT for the enhancement of societal progress, including the acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to him, the spin-offs from a region whose Information Communication Technology sector is transformed will have a tremendous positive impact on the livelihood of the citizens, stemming from the modes of communication to the way business is conducted. All these, the Commissioner stated, are geared towards necessitating the harmonization of frameworks and the strengthening of cybersecurity of the region.
Commissioner Bonkoungou disclosed that the regional instruments adopted so far by the Community had to do with electronic transactions, personal data protection and a directive on the fight against cybercrime. These are also meant to be implemented with the sensitization of stakeholders to the dangers of cybercrime, building the capacity of intervention teams as well as helping to establish a critical mass in this area.
Stressing that it is imperative for the Commission and its partners to create the conducive conditions for the development of such professionals, he said: “It behoves on Member States to build capacity in the area of cybersecurity and also ensure that they build the necessary awareness with respect to cybersecurity and cybercrime issues”.
The Commissioner also expressed gratitude to the European Union (EU) for support as well as Expertise France which is implementing the project. He appealed to Member States and partners to continue to maintain the fruitful cooperation that has characterized the process.
The chair of the session and Communications Minister of Ghana, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, noted that despite the challenges posed by the prevalence of COVID-19, the on-going process represented an opportunity to build a resilient infrastructure to meet future challenges.
She enthused that so far, the regional Community has stepped up to the plate and being the pivot of the support for the digitalization process, it has spelt the need to invest heavily in securing the cyberspace as this is required to facilitate steady economic progress.
Stating that “we need each other to be able to contain and prevent cyber incidences”, she urged all Member States yet to ratify the Malabo and Budapest Conventions relating to cybersecurity, to do so.
Bringing the 17th ECOWAS’ digital ministers meeting to a close, Minister Owusu-Ekuful thanked ministers for their diligence, stating that the region can be proud of the digital landscape being put together and be able to track the region’s cyber system.
The Regional Strategy on Cybersecurity and Cybercrime and the Policy on Critical Infrastructure Protection reviewed and finalized by the Ministers at the meeting, will be forwarded to the ECOWAS Parliament for opinion and the ECOWAS Council of Ministers for consideration and adoption.