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African States Lag Behind on Effective Cybercrime Laws

Despite some progress, many least developed countries (LDCs) still lag behind in cyberlaw reforms, according to the UNCTAD Cyberlaw Tracker released on 24 February. This has negative implications for cross-border data flows, trade, and digitalization. The tracker shows that LDCs that have adopted privacy and data protection laws rose from 43% in 2020 to 48% in 2021, while those with laws on consumer protection online increased from 40% to 41%. While many developing countries (79%), including LDCs (70%), have adopted laws on cybercrime, fewer than half of the LDCs have legislation on privacy.

UNCTAD points out that for ecommerce to continue to grow, consumers and businesses must be protected when they shop online in the same way as when they buy goods in a store.

The increased global use of data by businesses and consumers opens opportunities for private and social value creation, but it also brings risks related to privacy breaches and cybercrime attacks. UNCTAD’s tracker shows progress in countries at all levels of development. Last year saw the adoption of new cybercrime laws in Fiji, South Sudan, and Zambia and data protection legislation in Botswana, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In addition, some countries have bills awaiting legislative approval. They include Kenya (on cybercrime), Burundi (on consumer protection), and Eswatini, Gambia, and Tanzania (on data protection­). But the UNCTAD warns laws must be applied. There are countries with excellent laws but no facilities to apply the rules.


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