UNCTAD helps West African countries harmonize cyber laws

24 February 2014

Legislators from eight French-speaking West African countries attended an UNCTAD-ECOWAS seminar in Dakar, Senegal from 11-14 February, to discuss how to harmonize legislation on electronic transactions, computer security and personal data protection.

Twenty-three participants from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo presented their e-commerce legislation and discussed how to harmonize it across the West African region during a four-day seminar organized by UNCTAD and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

If we want to promote e-commerce in the region, we must raise consumer confidence in computer security and electronic transactions
Dr. Raphael Koffi
Principal Programme Officer and Head of Telecommunication/ICT Division
ECOWAS Commission

Of the participating countries, only Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal currently have laws for e-transactions, for prevention of cybercrime and for personal data protection aligned with regional frameworks. Apart from Guinea, the other countries represented at the seminar have draft laws in these areas.

The seminar follows a distance learning course on the Legal Aspects of Electronic Commerce given by UNCTAD for 221 representatives from the public and private sectors in October 2013.

In supporting the implementation at the national level of the existing legal frameworks on e-transactions (Supplementary Act A/SA.2/01/10), cybercrime (Directive 1/08/11) and personal data protection (Supplementary Act A/SA.1/01/10), the UNCTAD/ECOWAS project aims to address other important areas such as consumer protection, intellectual property rights, online content and taxation.

The participants agreed that electronic signature, consumer protection, and taxation procedures should also be harmonized, and made the following recommendations:

  • To continue the transposition process and set deadlines at the country level.

  • To strengthen the capacity of policy makers, law makers, the police, and computer emergency response teams (CERTs).

  • To organize national awareness campaigns to promote the laws, once adopted.

  • To strengthen enforcement agencies and build institutional frameworks to support the enforcement of the laws.

The seminar also recommended the establishment of a certification center, as wells as CERTs, at the regional level. So far among participating countries, only Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire have a CERT and Cote d'Ivoire is the only country benefiting from an Internet exchange point.

To follow-up this seminar, all participants will complete a questionnaire to form part of a regional comparative review on cyber law harmonization in ECOWAS. The African Union Commission, the International Telecommunications Union and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law were also represented at the seminar and made useful contributions. The UNCTAD/ECOWAS project is financed by the United Nations Development Account and the Government of Finland.

A similar seminar for English-speaking countries will be organized in Accra, Ghana, on 18-21 March 2014, in cooperation with the Council of Europe.