Africa may be taking a great leap forward into the digital era. But when technology reaches a new area, the hackers are never far behind.

Many are familiar with the African hacker cliche: revolving around a badly written email from someone, claiming to be a friend, for example, who has been mugged and needs an urgent money transfer.

But the reality is more nuanced. Smartphones and Facebook may be ubiquitous, but the continent still lags behind in other basic infrastructure, such as reliable power.

These gaps have created the perfect hacking environment, according to the technology expert Ethan Zuckerman, who describes Africa’s hackers as “world-class tech innovators”.

Hackers have also stepped in to help citizens living under oppressive regimes and those who are aware of endemic political corruption but feel powerless to stop it.