Joseph Mathenge, Serianu Chief Operating Officer (left) presents a Security Analyst Completion Certificate to Brenda Kamangara (right) during the Cyber Shujaa Second Cohort Graduation.
Joseph Mathenge, Serianu Chief Operating Officer (left) presents a Security Analyst Completion Certificate to Brenda Kamangara (right) during the Cyber Shujaa Second Cohort Graduation.

A new affirmative action program by the Kenya Bankers Association, Serianu and USIU dubbed Cyber Shujaa promises to increase young Kenyan women’s chances of entering the cybersecurity profession.

The initiative is designed to bridge the training, placement and retention gap for Kenyan youth in cybersecurity to counter increasing losses to cyber crimínals. Cyber Shujaa will scale up the population of women in the sector by running women-only training tracks for each cohort of students. The program aims to train and place 2,000 Kenyan youth with half of them female by the end of 2023.

Speaking in Nairobi during the graduation of the second cohort of 160 Cyber Shujaa trainees, KBA Director of Technical Services Fidelis Muia observed that less than 30 percent of Cyber Shujaa graduands were female, yet Kenya’s economy has the capacity to absorb 10,000 cybersecurity executives annually.

“Low female enrolment is a cause for concern because the field of information technology is expanding and more career paths are emerging in cybersecurity. We need more women to exploit their natural vigilance, dexterity and attention to detail, qualities that will help them tremendously in cybersecurity,” he stated

In addition to training the executives, Cyber Shujaa places the graduates with employers and works with those who want to go into enterprise to incubate their businesses at USIU.

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In recent years, cyber attácks in Kenya have risen in tandem with increased investment in digitization programs being pursued by organizations – including banks.  Kabuthia Riunge, Group Head, Cybersecurity, KCB Bank Group stated that in 2021 cyber security attácks took place every 11 seconds compared to every 30 seconds in 2020.

“Fortunately, this means that the demand for competent cyber security executives will continue for the foreseeable future. With Kenya’s unemployment standing at nearly 40 percent and organizations facing a dire need for qualified people, cybersecurity offers a number of roles such as cloud security and security analysts, data protection officers, auditors, vulnerability assessors, testers, security operation center staff, responders, forensic investigators and data analysts among many others,” Riunge stated.

Joseph Mathenge, Serianu Chief Operating Officer noted that Cyber Shujaa was proof that effective partnership between the private sector, academic community and the public sector was possible – as shown by the successful training of 289 young people including students from 32 universities and working executives drawn from the Kenya Bankers Association membership.

“While we encourage other sectors to emulate the model that we have in place, we need to emphasize that more women have an opportunity to become cyber security professionals with Cyber Shujaa,” he noted.

USIU-Africa Vice Chancellor Professor Margee Ensign highlighted Cyber Shujaa’s mentorship, practical skills training and group support activities. “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,” she posited.

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