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Surveillance: the ultra-secure phones of Africa’s presidents

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Cyber surveillance: a new market, with old clients

By Mathieu Olivier
Posted on Monday, 3 February 2020 10:59, updated on Wednesday, 21 July 2021 22:31

Security of communications is a key concern for African leaders, like South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Well aware of the surveillance capabilities of major companies in the sector, Africa’s heads of state try to make their phones as secure as Fort Knox. Every leader is geared up and takes extra precautions to prevent the ever-looming risk of being tapped. We take a look at the phones used by Africa’s presidents and politicians’ practices.

This is part 2 of a 4-part series.

In West Africa, some leaders have been won over by French technologies.

French presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande used a Teorem, an ultra-secure clamshell phone with physical buttons created by Thales. However, using it requires a certain amount of patience, and Sarkozy hated it for that reason.

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Inside Africa’s increasingly lucrative surveillance market

Dozens of journalists, human rights activists and business leaders were tapped via Israeli software by Moroccan, Saudi, Togolese and Rwandan intelligence services. The revelations of the investigation by a consortium of 17 international media exploded on Sunday 18 July. The company NSO, which designed the Pegasus spyware and distributes it, denied the allegations that which it described as "false".

Cameroon: Israel looks after Paul Biya’s security with elite forces

From communication interception technology to physical security, Cameroon’s state security market is entirely in the hands of Israelis.

Cybercrime: West African banks are under-protected

According to analysts from the Morocco-based firm Dataprotect, sub-Saharan African banks are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks (bank card fraud, phishing, intrusions, etc.), mainly due to a lack of qualified technicians and investment in cybersecurity.