Cyber power in the African context: an exploratory analysis and proposition


  • Petrus Duvenage University of Johannesburg
  • Wilhelm Bernhardt University of Johannesburg
  • Sebastian von Solms University of Johannesburg



Cyberpower, cyber power index, cyber power model, developing countries, Global South, Cyber warfare


While the centrality of cyber power in the safeguarding and advancing nation states’ national interests and objectives is now widely accepted, the academic discourse (on cyber power) is still incipient. In literature reviewed, cyber power is predominantly viewed as comprising of two dimensions, namely offensive and defensive. The exploratory analysis we conducted found that Africa’s unique, contextual factors necessitate an expanded conceptualisation of cyber power. This alternative conceptualisation does not dispute the existing notion that cyber power has offensive and defensive dimensions. The fact that cyber is by its very nature borderless and that African countries function in an interconnected global arena of competition and conflict, are also not contested.  What is required is the addition of a third dimension to cyber power, namely developmental power. This paper advances a tentative proposition on a cyber-power triad (with offensive, defensive and developmental dimensions). This proposition, we argue, is more apposite to African countries’ national objectives —strategically and in the allocation of resources.  At least on a notional level, the cyber-power triad can guide the leveraging of the asymmetric advantages that cyber space offers African nation states and in a manner that pursues all three (cyber power) dimensions in a complementary manner. Such synergetic wielding of cyber power is one of the keys indispensable to African countries addressing their substantial challenges and unlocking their vast potential.