Author: Marco Essomba
CTO, iCyber-Security Group Ltd

Marco Essomba is a Certified Application Delivery Networking and Cyber Security Expert with an industry leading reputation. He is the founder and CTO of iCyber-Security Group, a leading edge UK based cyber security firm providing complete and cost effective digital protection solutions to SME’s. iCyberSecurity’s cyber defence platform (iCyber-Shield) gives total visibility & control over your entire security infrastructure. The product is listed on the London Digital Security Centre MarketPlace. Let’s connect on Twitter: 22K+ followers –> @marcoessomba Let’s connect on LinkedIn: 10K+ followers:

Sometimes life as an entrepreneur and business founder, can take you to some unexpected places! Recently, I spent a week in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa on a project to train security engineers from the Government’s Tax Office to protect their network infrastructure and online applications against cyber attacks. Like most countries, organisations in Senegal are battling with the growing worldwide threat of cybercrime and the urgent need to protect their digital assets, to safely conduct business online.

The relentless growth in cyber attacks

We tend to think of cyber crime as a western threat. But it’s just as real in developing countries where progress is accelerated and technology tends to ‘leapfrog’. From cyber criminals, state actors and hacktivists conducting DDoS attacks to industrial espionage, intelligence gathering and attempts to steal sensitive information, the rise in cyber attacks affects businesses everywhere. According to Forbes, cyber crime costs are projected to reach $2 trillion by 2019.

Dakar – major trading hub in West Africa

The Republic of Senegal, Africa’s westernmost country, borders the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania, it has a beautiful coastline and beaches. Business here is buzzing; Senegal is considered a very

peaceful and stable democracy compared to many other African countries. In 2016, a constitutional referendum reduced the term of presidents to five years with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
Senegal’s capital Dakar, is now the major trading hub in West Africa. To reinforce this strategic position, the Government is embarking on a huge digital transformation driven by online services (e-services). Businesses and citizens will soon be able to pay taxes online, from anywhere, any device, and anytime! Senegal is leading by example in Africa’s digital revolution.

Frictionless e-borders

Upon landing at Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport, the passport checking process is very smooth. Fingerprint readers, passport digital scans, and luggage scanning on the way out of the Airport. Security seems very tight.

Hustling with the locals

I take a taxi from the airport – most African taxis are painted yellow so are easy to spot. I want to experience the local “hustle” common in Africa where price is relative and can always be negotiated.
My win-win style of negotiation stands me in good stead. I sit in the front of the cab to get the most out of the taxi driver and put my French to good use. Soon I succeed in getting a discount – happy days!
Off to a great start and with my French in full swing, the driver spots my English accent and instantly switches to English. He’s keen to show off his own skill and I’m happy to oblige. He’s confident and fluid. “How do you speak such good English,” I ask. “I had no schooling. Just talking to people here at the airport”, he replies.

Internet boost

I can feel the huge connectivity boost here. I have 4G on my phone. The Internet connection is very fast. Response times are negligible. Everywhere I look, people are on their mobile phones. Texting, chatting, and on social media. It’s clear that connectivity is not an issue here in Dakar.

Defending-in-depth. Defending-in-layers.

Back to my mission – training and empowering security engineers at the Government of Senegal Tax Office and helping them plan, design and implement a full stack secure infrastructure to assist the digital transformation.
To make various government services available online via an e-portal, there is a growing need to make the network infrastructure and applications very fast, secure, and always-available. It requires country-wide data centres that can scale on demand allowing businesses and taxpayers to update their tax online. Of course, all this also comes with risks associated with online services and e-commerce.
And that’s exactly why I find myself here, in my role as security consultant in one of my most exotic work locations ever!
It’s clear to me that Dakar means business. Where there is connectivity and online business cyber criminals will come. But by recognising and addressing potential threats in advance, local organisations in Senegal will be well prepared and ready for them. And if they need any extra help – I’d love to come back!


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