INTERVIEW: Huawei sees Egypt as a 'high-potential market' - Regional officer for Northern Africa

Doaa A.Moneim , Friday 9 Jun 2023

Cybersecurity and its related issues has been critical for developing countries and emerging markets, including Egypt, as such economies still working on upgrading their digital infrastructure and boosting their digital transition process.



On the sidelines of GITEX Africa 2023 held in Marrakech, Morocco, 31 May- 2 June, Ahram Online talked to Frank Li, regional cyber security & privacy officer at Huawei for the Northern Africa region, to shed light on these issues.

Li praised Egyptian efforts to counter cybersecurity threats and accelerate the country’s digital transition.

Ahram Online: Why is cybersecurity critical for digital transformation in developing and emerging markets at present, including Egypt?

Frank Li: As the world grows more interconnected, digital and intelligent, cyberspace is becoming an integral part of life, business and the economy.

While digital technologies like cloud computing, big data, AI and 5G are creating unprecedented new value for society, the world is also growing increasingly vulnerable.

As digital assets increase, attack surfaces are continuing to expand, security vulnerabilities are being exploited more frequently and cyberspace as a whole is becoming increasingly unsecure. These are making cybersecurity assurance more important than ever.

We must continuously improve cybersecurity and network stability to safeguard the development of our digital economy, which entails both challenges and opportunities.

That means building digital trust and making critical infrastructure both more secure and more resilient. It also means guiding enterprises through the digital transformation process.

That means implementing management and technical measures to control risks, ensuring compliance and protecting both networks and data. It also means giving people access to stable ICT services during major incidents like natural disasters and pandemics.

As the Egyptian economy is shifting to digital and online models, the possibility of cybersecurity threats outpacing traditional approaches to data security is higher than ever. Cybersecurity has quickly become a pressing concern, changing how the public and private sectors interact.

However, many people believe that cybersecurity is all about technology, but this is not the case. Technology is only one piece of the puzzle, since cybersecurity strategies comprise three pillars: people, process and technology.

In order to create a secure and trustworthy smart ecosystem, built on AI, 5G, cloud and many other cutting-edge technologies, cross-sector collaborations must be formed to address cybersecurity concerns, as well as provide digital transformation solutions.

Additionally, the need for cybersecurity is rapidly increasing, and is expected to continue growing in the coming years. For instance, Egypt ranks 23rd globally in ITU Global Cybersecurity Index, and there are still opportunities for enhancement.

That is why the Egyptian government has taken it upon itself to proactively create and adapt systems to face these threats, through launching regulations and a new National Cybersecurity Strategy for 2023 to 2027.

These measures will enhance Egypt's cybersecurity governance, safeguard its citizens from potential cyber threats, support scientific research, and foster the growth of the cyber industry.

We believe Egypt’s efforts by the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) are impressive strides in providing a more secure national information infrastructure, and formulating frameworks and regulatory systems to protect data and digital assets.

Here comes Huawei’s role. In fact, we support Egypt’s digital transformation initiatives and believe that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, addressed by several entities for one unanimous goal.

We actively engage with the ICT industry and foresee upcoming trends, in order to be a trusted partner and collaborate with the government and other strategic stakeholders to share best practices in cybersecurity and privacy protection.

Huawei hereby undertakes strategic measures to share its know-how in cybersecurity and activate effective collaboration in cyberspace, building a fully connected, secure world.

Global industry standards, internationally agreed processes and industry best practices are critical in addressing cyber threats effectively. As such, building and implementing an end-to-end global cybersecurity and privacy protection assurance system is one of Huawei’s key strategies.

In compliance with applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates and international standards, Huawei has created an effective, sustainable, and reliable cybersecurity and privacy protection assurance system by referring to the requirements of regulators and customers and industry best practices.

Huawei has continued to make cyber security and privacy protection a top priority. We are committed to confronting cyber security and privacy challenges and seizing related opportunities through management transformation, technological innovation, and open collaboration.

We are committed to fostering a better life for all in the future digital world where personal data is lawfully used and always protected by offering secure and trustworthy products, solutions, and services

We actively communicated with industry stakeholders to jointly build cyber security capabilities in response to mounting cyber security challenges. In addition, we have continued to optimize the presence of our global service centers to ensure more flexible service delivery.

Meanwhile, we organized the Network Safety Day campaign with customers to identify and mitigate risks on live networks, strengthen cyber security awareness, enhance cyber resilience, and support secure and stable network operations

AO: How has such an industry become attractive for investors regionally?

FL: The cybersecurity market has seen rapid growth due to the region’s rising reliance on digitization. The more we are digitized, the more we are prone to cyberattacks.

This transition presents untapped opportunities for cybersecurity firms to grow and consequently attract investors. According to Data Bridge Market Research’s recent analysis, Egypt's cybersecurity market is projected to experience a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.1 percent from 2022 to 2029, indicating significant potential for investment and growth in this sector.

Although developed nations consistently implement cybersecurity programmes, and offer aid to developing countries for safeguarding their national infrastructure and government systems, developing nations still remain vulnerable to security risks.

Huawei believes that reliable and resilient digital transformation can be achieved when it has a foundation of cybersecurity. Subsequently, the company invests five percent of its R&D budget in the cybersecurity domain, aiming to provide a robust cybersecurity infrastructure, promote cybersecurity innovation and develop cybersecurity capabilities, to protect the region’s business ecosystem and mitigate the risks.

We have developed cyber security governance principles and a general policy, referencing applicable laws, regulations and industry standards, as well as Huawei’s years of experience.

They are intended to guide the development of cybersecurity organizations and capabilities within our various business domains so we can ensure that risks are effectively managed and that our products, solutions, services and operations comply with relevant laws and regulations while remaining competitive in terms of security.

On the industry front, Huawei firmly believes that openness and collaboration lead to shared success. We actively engage with the ICT industry, working with our peers and industry stakeholders to share best practices in cyber security and privacy protection.

In 2022, we submitted nearly 300 cyber security standards proposals to 3GPP and GSMA. Working side-by-side with stakeholders all along the value chain, we are innovating together to bolster the industry’s cybersecurity and privacy protection capabilities. Together, we are building a more secure digital world.

AO: What’s the potential for a strong cybersecurity industry in Egypt? What is the forecast for such industries in the region and Egypt?

FL: As digital transformation and cybersecurity go hand in hand, the rising digital transformation has led cybersecurity to evolve. We see Egypt as a high-potential market. The government has created a proper environment for investment and doing business in the local market. Foreseeing that digitization will be an integral part of our lives and economy, the government launched the Egyptian Computer Emergency Readiness Team (EG-CERT) in 2009, aiming to minimize possible cyber-attacks for a more secure digital ecosystem.

Since 2012, EG-CERT has been supporting different entities across the ICT, banking, and government sectors, as well as enhancing the culture and raising awareness of cybersecurity and information security. The government’s keenness to foster a better secure digital life strengthens the investors’ confidence in the Egyptian market.

As we are optimistic about the market, Huawei has substantially committed itself to making cybersecurity and privacy protection a top priority.

The company works tirelessly to transfer knowledge and share experience in the fields of cyber and information security.

We aim to secure trustworthy products, solutions and services, helping Egypt achieve its digital transformation strategy securely.

AO: Cybersecurity professionals need to treasure the opportunity given to the Chief Information Security Officer’s (CISO) in the new digital age where cloud computing heralds a new era and computing is entrenched as a basic utility. How can you explain that?

FL: The world faces an acute cybersecurity talent shortage, with 56 percent of security professionals globally saying that cybersecurity staff shortages are putting their organizations at risk. It is, therefore, imperative that all stakeholders work together to enhance capacity and skills development in the sector.

The global cybersecurity workforce grew to encompass 4.7 million people, reaching its highest-ever levels, according to (ISC)2 2022 workforce study. That is the encouraging news. 

However, the same study found that there is still a need for more than 3.4 million security professionals, an increase of over 26 percent from 2021’s numbers.

With the rise of digitization, CISO’s role gained more importance throughout the years. As computing has become a basic utility, this role now is deemed to be a critical business enabler, helping organizations to minimize cyber threats and put in place the necessary security technologies.

The significance of this role has pushed organizations to move the position into executive management teams and the board. Therefore, in order to thrive in today's digital world, it is essential to establish a strong foundation for cybersecurity education and training for young individuals.

Additionally, those who have already established careers in this field must continue to enhance their skills and knowledge through ongoing training programs.

Huawei believes in the CISO’s role, and thus it has launched impactful initiatives in capacity building of younger generations.

The company has also launched 82 academies in Egypt, in partnership with public and private universities, aiming to build eligible calibers that would provide safety and security in our digital landscape.

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