The Africa Cyber Defense Forum (ACDF) 2023 officially kicked off in Kigali on November 15, bringing together the world’s leading security experts, front-line heroes, government leaders, and executives from various industries to address the challenges facing today’s cyber threat landscape. Taking place at Kigali Marriott Hotel until November 17, the annual conference also aims to deliver a programme of content that unites the ICT, cyber, and data protection professions across the globe. Speaking during the conference's official opening, the Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, highlighted the increasing global cyber threats and the need for collective action to address them. “The rapid evolution of cyber threats and the cyber threat landscape presents unprecedented challenges. The sophistication and complexity of these challenges require that we work together to ensure the readiness to respond and adequately mitigate some of the global cyber threats,” she said. Cybersecurity Ventures, a global research firm in the cyber economy, predicts that global cybercrime costs to grow by 15 per cent per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015. This will be highly influenced by the rapid evolution of emerging technologies. According to Ingabire, cyber criminals are harnessing technology advances to create more sophisticated cyber threats and are developing new tactics in many ways. She stressed the importance of addressing the cyber security skills shortage, gender gap, and pay disparities. “As we deal with the complexity and the growing nature of cyber threats, we also need to be able, not just to increase our skills to deal with this, but to increase the workforce that is able to deal with this in a permanent way,” she said. “Not only do we have to address the gap of having more female representation or women representation in the cyber security industry, but we also need to ensure that the pay gap is also addressed in very meaningful ways.” Ingabire emphasised the need for consistent regulations and digital trust, citing Rwanda's proactive measures including Personal Data and Privacy Law as well as the establishment of the Data Protection Office as good examples. She further called for collaboration between public and private sectors, academia, and international cooperation to strengthen cyber security. According to a report by Interpol, more than 90 per cent of businesses on the continent operate without essential cyber security protocols. This gap exposes the vulnerability of African businesses to cyber-attacks, resulting in significant financial losses of over $4 billion annually. Gilbert Nyandeje, the Chief Executive Officer of ACDF, highlighted the historical challenge Africa faced in playing a secondary role in various fields, including technology and innovation, and emphasised the power of networking and belief in Africa's potential to address it. He also highlighted the rapid evolution of Africa's digital landscape and the need for cyber security and digital trust. “Africa's digital space and landscape is evolving rapidly. Driven by a tech-savvy youth population, our population is very young,” he said. “While this transformation holds great promise, it also presents challenges. With cyber security emerging as an imperative, it is no longer a choice, but a necessity in the face of increasing digital risks.” Nyandeje also called for regional and global collaboration to address cyber-crime effectively. Ghislaine Kayigi, the Chief Cyber Security Standards Officer at the National Cyber Security Authority (NCSA), also emphasised the importance of making cyber security a priority in Africa and acknowledged the role of ACDF in making that happen. The Africa Cyber Defense Forum 2023 also encompassed panel discussions on critical topics such as data protection, the intersection of AI and cyber security, private-public collaboration in cyber security, and the global challenge of cyber threats.