Kenya's Cyber Shujaa Program to Grow Population of Women Cybersecurity Professionals

By Duncan Ondigo and Taigu Muchiri

Kenya has set a new target of female cybersecurity professionals to reduce the yawning skills gap amid a relentless surge in cybercrime. With global data showing that women hold only 25 per cent of cybersecurity jobs and Kenya not fairing any better, the Cyber Shujaa initiative run by the USIU-Africa, Serianu and Kenya Bankers Association intends to scale up the population of women fighting cyber criminals. Additionally, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in 2021, there was a ransomware attack every 11 seconds.

This, said USIU-Africa Vice Chancellor Professor Margee Ensign, will be made possible through Cyber Shujaa’s mentorship, practical skills training and group support activities. She was speaking during the Cyber Shujaa graduation ceremony of the second cohort of graduands of the program that is supported by the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and aims to train and place 2,000 (50% female) Kenyan youth in formal employment or guide them to set up enterprises.

“Our strategic focus is to align our curriculum with industry and government in order to solve national and global cybersecurity challenges,” she said, reiterating her commitment to the partnership as the academic and research partner to drive the youth engagement, curriculum development, training and immersion, data collection, analysis and policy-based research.”

Echoing her remarks, Serianu Chief Operating Officer Joseph Mathenge noted that the country will have to scale up its efforts to bridge the training, placement and retention gap for the youth in IT and cybersecurity if it is to stem the rising tide of losses to cyber criminals, which could reach Kshs 10 billion per annum by end of 2022.

“The current partnership between the public, private sector and academia as illustrated by our relationship with the government, USIU-Africa, Kenya Bankers Association. While we expand awareness and investments in the necessary technologies, the requisite human resource to drive the operations needs a concerted effort to develop,” said Mathenge. He added that education, training, and research infrastructure is necessary to enhance the overall economy’s cybersecurity preparedness, while growing a population of world-class women cyber security professionals. Programs like Cyber Shujaa are the only way that Kenya will beat the global average.

Kabuthia Riunge, Group Head, Cybersecurity, KCB Bank Group lauded the program noting that the global cybersecurity workforce is growing, but so is the gap in professionals needed to carry out its critical mission.
“The 2022 Annual ISC Squared Cybersecurity Workforce Study surveyed 11,779 international cybersecurity practitioners estimated the size of the global cybersecurity workforce at 4.7 million people – the highest ever recorded. However, despite the growth, cybersecurity workforce gap analysis revealed that despite adding more than 464,000 professionals in 2022, the global cybersecurity workforce gap has grown more than twice as much as the workforce, with a 26.2% year-on-year increase, making it a profession in dire need of more people. In Kenya, the number of skilled cybersecurity professionals in Kenya is lagging far behind demand, forcing companies to scramble for the few available at a higher cost. The Cyber Shujaa program helps bridge the cybersecurity workforce gap, addresses youth unemployment, underemployment and inactivity as well as promotes entrepreneurship among the youth.”

Fidelis Muia, Director of Technical Service, Kenya Bankers Association said that the they remain committed to applying innovative solutions to security challenges and will continue to engage on partnerships that seek to deliver value to our stakeholders, the banking public, and the economy at large.

“This graduation ceremony of the first two cohorts of the program is testament that collaborations can indeed deliver real solution to complex challenges posed. It is the ambition of the banking industry, through KBA, to continue spurring growth in the economy through innovation.”

Since the inception of the program in March 2022, two hundred and eighty-nine students have successfully completed the program, with 30% being female. The second cohort saw a total of 115 students graduate: 9 specializing in Entrepreneurship and Business Development, 22 specializing in Data Protection, 24 specializing in Cloud and Network Security and 61 specializing as Security Analysts. Graduands from this program are expected to take up jobs as security analysts, auditors, vulnerability assessors, penetration testers, security operation center staff, incident responders and forensic investigators.

According to a 2022 study, despite the global cybersecurity workforce hitting an all-time high with an estimated 4.7 million professionals in 2022, the industry is still short by some 3.4 million professionals. Serianu estimates that Kenya’s shortfall still remains at 10,000 per year.

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