ISSAN Forum: Experts raise alarm over brain drain of digital skills in Africa

Experts have raised concerns over the growing shortage of general digital skills occasioned by the brain drain in Africa, stating that such development would further lead to a rise in cyber-attacks and crimes with catastrophic consequences for businesses, governments, and citizens. This was the consensus of panelists that facilitated at the April edition of The Information Security Society of Africa – Nigeria (ISSAN) monthly meeting themed: ‘Addressing the Cybersecurity Skills Quagmire’.

They opined that African countries must as a matter of urgency start Intentional development of digital skills at all levels, smart technology support, collaboration with the Diaspora and strategic supply of digital skills to Africa. Key speakers included President, ISSAN, Dr. David Isiavwe; Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Digital Jewels, Mrs. Doyin Odunfa; Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Stanbic IBTC, Abumere Igboa; CISO, Heritage Bank, Eduje Ighoakpo; CISO, First Bank, Harrison Nnaji; CISO, Standard Chartered Bank, Oghenefovie Oyawari and Tokunbo Taiwo, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Digital Jewels amongst several other speakers.

According to Mrs. Odunfa, the shortage of general digital skills at all levels is expected to become more critical as economies grow, noting that the supply of digitally skilled labour must also increase to meet anticipated labour market needs. She observed that highly skilled African professionals have been emigrating African countries to pursue lucrative cultural and socio-economic opportunities on other continents leading to a brain drain and skills gap on the continent. Whilst proffering solutions,  she went further to recommend intentional development of digital skills at all levels, smart technology support, collaboration with the Diaspora and strategic supply to Africa and Western economies.  “These young Africans are looking for higher-paying jobs outside Africa to escape socio-economic limitations such as poverty, limited infrastructure, and rudimentary jobs. They look for enabling environments in developed countries that provide rewarding businesses and obtain lucrative jobs, matching skilled individuals’ aspirations and expected socio-economic recompense. Many highly talented African students that obtain opportunities and scholarships of training abroad do not return home after completing studies.”

In his welcome address, President, ISSAN, Dr. David Isiavwe, said the brain drain in Africa as well as the digital skills shortage currently being experienced around the world calls for concern. According to him, “The cyber threat landscape is still evolving. The cybersecurity space keeps getting very busy by the day. We have seen how daring cybercriminals can be, targeting both national assets and of highly reputable firms. Even individuals are not left out. Consequently,  it becomes imperative that organizations never relent in upholding and reinforcing information security best practices.”

The Information Security Society of Africa – Nigeria (ISSAN) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace. They are significantly involved in ensuring the security of Banking Systems and applications, ATMs, e-government systems, and the entire cyberspace in Nigeria. ISSAN also seek to achieve its objectives through awareness heightening measures including the promotion of appropriate legislation and best practices.  Membership cuts across both public and private sectors of the economy including Banks, Telecommunications Operators, Government parastatals, switching companies, IT and IT Security Consultancies, Legal Practitioners with a keen interest in cyber-related matters, and Regulators.

ISSAN, which has existed for over 10 years in Nigeria, has proven to be a veritable platform for collaboration and exchange of ideas by members of the Banking and e-commerce public, especially regarding the safekeeping of PINS, controls over passwords, access to the internet as well as steps organizations should take to always keep their systems healthy and safe. ISSAN, therefore, performs a critical role in ensuring that Information Security professionals find their voice on matters of Information Security and that all stakeholders are duly informed of the steps to take to contribute their little quota towards ensuring a safe society for us all.

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