AfricaHACKON in partnership with the School of Science and Technology bring together industry experts for the first edition of the 2024 Masterclass

By Tapiwanashe Mlambo & Tabitha Musya
On Saturday, February 25, all roads led to USIU-Africa for the Q1 AfricaHACKON Masterclass. A collaborative effort between USIU-Africa’s School of Science and Technology, AfricaHACKON, 369Global, CyberGuard Africa, and Startinev brought forth a laudable Cybersecurity Masterclass that gathered industry experts, learners and cybersecurity enthusiasts alike.

For over 10 years, AfricaHACKON, a cybersecurity collective has been actively fostering research, capacity building, towards mentoring and building a strong community of cybersecurity experts to bridge the ever-yawning skills gap in an aggressively dynamic cyber threat landscape, locally and globally. Notably led by Dr. Bright Gameli, CEO of CyberGuard Africa, the Masterclass aims to foster and nurture cybersecurity and propel cybersecurity excellence across the African continent.

The multifaceted participation from different domains across industry, academia, and the government reinforced the urgent need for cross-sector collaboration in navigating the intricate landscape of cybersecurity threats – a fundamental pillar of any robust organizational security strategy.

Addressing the skills gap and capacity building
A central theme of the Masterclass was addressing the worldwide cybersecurity skills gap. In his opening remarks, Dr. Stanley Githinji, Assistant Professor of Information System Security at USIU-Africa, highlighted the importance of not only identifying cybersecurity gaps, but also individually and collectively filling these gaps through continuous professional development and industry-aligned education. In attendance was Mr. Philip Irode, the Deputy Director of Cyber Security at the ICT Authority who amplified this message, stressing the crucial need for comprehensive capacity building to fill critical roles through collaborative efforts of Public Private Partnerships.

The Masterclass comes timely at the heels of Kenya’s National Computer Incident Response Team (National KE-CIRT/CC) reporting over 1 billion cyber-attacks as the nation increased its digitization efforts in the quarter ending December 2023. Since cyber attackers are not slowing down, Mr. Irode, stressed the importance of cross industry collaborative efforts towards increased cyber resilience. The event was sponsored by 369 Global, a Canadian-based conglomerate aiming to build and invest in an inclusive capacity building in both local and international jurisdictions. Kumaran Nadesan, the co-founder and Deputy Chairman of 369 Global encouraged the attendees to complement technical skills with soft skills, both equally critical in the cybersecurity industry.

Deep dives and emerging trends
Through a dynamic blend of presentations, live demos and hands-on activities, the Masterclass tackled critical facets within the field. Expert-led breakout sessions delved into extensive topics like re-engineering cloud security, API exploitation, threat monitoring and intelligence to internet governance and data protection offering invaluable knowledge for both seasoned and newcomers in the cybersecurity field. Another exciting session dealt with how to choose the right path towards advancing one’s career in cybersecurity. Majority of the attendees were students from various universities, over 100 of who were USIU-Africa students undertaking forensics and cybercrime specializations and Masters of Science in Information Security students. The interactive sessions provided wealth of insights of how to start in cybersecurity. The various industry experts and IT professionals came prepared to spend the day and remained for networking (and photos) throughout the event.

Beyond the technical depth, the event fueled inspiration for both students and those transitioning their careers to cybersecurity. Uplifting statistics displayed Kenya's potential to become an African cybersecurity leader, galvanizing investment in the sector. Personal success stories, such as individuals transitioning from non-coding backgrounds to 19-year-olds conducting demonstrations in mastering API management, ignited a sense of possibility and determination for the hundreds of students in attendance. The Masterclass thrived on the energy of networking, paving the way for connections, mentorship, and future collaborations within the cybersecurity community.

Even from the perspective of an attendee, the information packed event was a great success. The insights and interactions, and networks forged during this Masterclass serve as a reminder that the cybersecurity landscape is ever evolving. The masterclass ended at the resounding climax: staying ahead demands continuous learning, unwavering collaboration, and a commitment to empowering individuals from all backgrounds to rise within the field.

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