Building trust: Why Africa needs inclusive cybersecurity solutions – TechCabal

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This article was contributed to TechCabal by Sylvia Brune.

In the last decade or more, it has been said that mobile penetration and increased internet access will usher in economic growth in Africa. But does smartphone penetration and internet connectivity automatically lead to economic growth or are there resulting digital challenges that could gravely affect economic outcomes? 

In Africa, fraudulent transactions amount to approximately $4 billion annually, with financial institutions and the telecoms sector bearing the brunt of attacks. Among others, the World Economic Forum highlighted that many African businesses are not adequately equipped to navigate cyber threats. It’s clear: the time to secure Africa’s digital future is now.

More than just the financial toll, the real cost of fraud and data breaches? Trust. When online fraudsters strike, they steal identities and opportunities, excluding countless people from participating in Africa’s digital economy. The reality is that cybercriminals are evolving faster than a chameleon changing its colours, becoming ever more cunning in their exploits; so our digital defences must be ironclad to thwart them, yet inclusive to ensure everyone can thrive in this new digital age, tech-savvy or not. 

This is the big trade-off that lies ahead and the question that propels us forward: How do we effectively guard against these threats without sidelining the good actors we’re here to serve? At pawaPass, our mission is to find the challenging balance between combating fraudsters and ensuring the digital doors remain open for everyone else. 

In a continent as diverse as Africa, more than half do not have proof of legal ID, and the majority of businesses lack the means or tools for sophisticated verification, often resorting to manual checks. This approach can result in errors, particularly if verifications happen remotely while exposing the collected personal data to vulnerabilities. Therefore, as innovators solving the cybersecurity challenge, we must deliver solutions that account for the diverse needs and realities of Africans and resist the pitfalls of a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

In the quest for a digital future that is both secure and universally accessible, innovative solutions that merge cutting-edge security with user-friendly verification are crucial. By focusing on creating systems that enhance user experience without compromising security, such as offering biometric verification for critical transactions, we can protect users without encroaching on their digital freedom. 

Collaborations between businesses and anti-fraud platforms like pawaPass need to take into consideration the types of users that the business has to ensure the approaches are thoughtful and risk-based, so as not to harm the overall user experience. This is why, at pawaPass, having tested multiple solutions, we are currently using FaceTec’s leading biometric technology, known for its focus on security and resilience against the most cunning frauds, with their $600,000 bounty offer for whoever successfully hacks into their security system. 

At pawaPass, our current solution has been tailored to work effectively for businesses that serve a large range of users across multiple African markets. This was important to the team because the challenge doesn’t end with active verification technology only. As we strive for inclusivity, we also confront the realities of data costs, device types, user behaviour, and internet accessibility across the continent. This reality means any verification process needs to be flexible enough to accommodate low-end smartphones used by many online users in Africa. 

Our goal is clear: to make it easier to trust people online. By creating anti-fraud and verification systems that cater to every segment of society, we can help break down digital barriers for people across the continent. This vision is already coming to life through our partnership with sports and technology brand Mchezo to facilitate $2 million worth of shares to over 200,000 betPawa’s committed customer base. It’s a testament to our commitment to creating a digital ecosystem where security and inclusivity go hand in hand.

As I reflect on our path so far, it’s clear that building trust online is highly complex, and the road ahead is filled with opportunities and obstacles. But it’s obviously a journey worth taking because building secure, inclusive, and trustworthy digital infrastructure is not just about compliant transactions or safeguarding data; it is about laying the foundation for a future where every African has access to a wide range of opportunities that will enable them to prosper. 

Sylvia Brune is the CEO of pawaPass. She has over a decade of experience as an entrepreneur with a dynamic career trajectory that spans various sectors and industries. She has a unique blend of problem-solving, connecting the dots, and a drive to create great experiences for customers.

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