Quantum Computing in Africa: A Journey to the 1960s Era

  • “At Present, Quantum Computing Resembles Classical Computing in the 1960s.”

The advent of quantum computing is poised to revolutionize the landscape of cyber attacks. Although not yet fully realized, its imminent arrival warrants keen observation and preparedness for its potential impact on computer security.

The  World Economic Forum has recently released the Quantum Readiness Toolkit in 2023, which delves into the rapid progression of quantum development, the proliferation of quantum computers, and the cybersecurity risks they pose. In parallel, the European Policy Centre also unveiled its quantum security agenda in the same year, placing the quantum dialogue squarely within the realm of security concerns. Quantum technology holds the potential to revolutionize various aspects, including cybersecurity.

Martin Potgieter, Co-Founder and Technical Director at Nclose in Cape Town, South Africa, believes that the emergence of quantum computers will revolutionize the landscape of cyber warfare. He states, “It will change how computers will be used to attack and defend, potentially cracking cryptographic algorithms at speed.” Despite their current experimental and impractical nature, Potgieter anticipates that quantum computers, once mainstream, will bring about exponentially greater computing power.

Professor Bruce Watson, the Director of the

Computational Thinking for AI Group at the Centre for AI Research (CAIR) in Stellenbosch University, South Africa, emphasizes the complexity and high cost associated with building quantum computers. He highlights the need for facilities with liquid nitrogen or liquid helium cooling and vibration-proof infrastructure, which can amount to over $100 million for the lab. Watson also draws a parallel, stating that quantum computing is currently at a stage similar to where classical computing was in the 1960s.

Globally, not just in Africa, some major players in the technology industry are investing heavily in quantum computing. However, the technology and its capabilities are still reminiscent of the grainy photographs of massive computers and stacks of floppy discs from over 70 years ago. The key difference now is that countries like the United States and China have the financial resources to lead the quantum computing initiative.

“In Africa, several research labs are currently engaged in quantum experimentation, but none have the capability to build fully functional quantum computers,” Watson explains. “The primary limitation is the cost involved. Despite the presence of highly skilled scientists and mathematicians who are steadily developing expertise on the continent, we anticipate relying on overseas facilities for the foreseeable future.”

Nevertheless, it remains crucial to prioritize quantum security on the continent. Similar to the unforeseen consequences of the first computer virus, the Creeper, released in 1971, the advent of quantum computers in the future will bring unexpected challenges.

Potgieter notes that this issue is not specific to any particular region. He suggests that the Southern African Development Community and the African Union should consider prioritizing quantum security on their agenda, if they haven’t already done so. Despite the numerous challenges facing Africa, this topic warrants high-level discussion due to its significance and complexity.

In the near future, it is highly probable that industries such as finance and healthcare, which stand to gain significantly from the potential of quantum technology, will seek to establish and adhere to protocols and guidelines to safeguard their interests.


According to Jean-Francois Bobier, Partner and Vice President of Deep Tech at Boston Consulting Group, the current regulatory landscape in Africa lacks specific regulations for the banking sector. In Morocco, initial efforts are being spearheaded by prominent banking groups like Attijariwafa Bank, although central banks are facing challenges in enforcing Transport Layer Security (TLS) with traditional cipher algorithms.

“It is likely that Africa will adopt the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines, which are based in the US, and we anticipate that they will mandate the transition to post-quantum cryptography by 2025,” he comments. “We expect this transition to resemble the Y2K situation, but potentially more challenging due to the widespread use of cryptography, inadequate documentation, and instances of hard-coded applications and certificates.”

Quantum security in Africa may not be as advanced as in other regions, but it is recognized as an important facet of computation in the future. Steven Cohen, Managing Director of Triple S Solutions, emphasizes the significance of this issue, stating that the continent’s diverse economic and technological landscape will lead different countries to engage with quantum security at varying paces and levels of intensity. Given the global nature of digital security and communication, quantum security is a conversation worth having.

Over the next five years, quantum technology is not expected to become mainstream in Africa, but the foundational work undertaken during this period will play a crucial role in shaping the future of quantum technology on the continent.

As Watson asserts, there is a notable absence of significant post-quantum cryptography initiatives or quantum security efforts aimed at developing new algorithms. While there are advocates in Africa emphasizing the necessity for post-quantum cryptography, the majority have yet to realize the urgency of taking proactive measures at present.




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