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Cloud is the Next Big Disruptor in Africa

by Brian Wafula
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Andrew Waitiu, MD SAP East AfricaBy Andrew Waititu, Managing Director at SAP East Africa

The disruptive nature of cloud computing will have far-reaching effects
across all continents and industries as global players in the industry
scuffle for market share in emerging opportunities for small to medium (SME)
enterprises. Africa, with its burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit, has long
been touted as the last frontier for galvanising enterprise market growth,
and cloud computing is well suited for this unconquered continent.

With cloud computing and access to complex data analytics, innovators can
provide high-end services to previously untapped, low value customers to
achieve modest returns at prices that seem unattractive at first to already
established enterprises. Add mobility to the mix and African enterprises
have connectivity, security, flexibility as well as applications and
services on demand, underpinned by location in the palm of their customers’
hands. These next generation mobile services, we believe, is the ultimate
game changer for Africa, leapfrogging traditional enterprise business
models.

Cloud computing is transforming the ecosystems of data centres, applications
and platforms and presents new and interactive ways of communication in all
aspects of business. By harnessing social media, mobility and analytics at a
fraction of the cost, businesses now can create extended avenues to interact
with their customers than ever before.

While many large organisations are still assessing the impact of cloud
computing, smaller forward-thinking African organisations are telling us
that the key differentiator in the next 10 years will be the creative and
interactive link with big data, data of customers and their actionable,
‘packaged’ experiences for those customers.

We see the cloud computing underpinning the “stock exchange of everything”.
Today we see mobile cloud computing touching every node in every industry,
changing the way healthcare, retail and manufacturing industries interact
with customers and breaking through the layers the middleman to get a much
closer feel for their requirements. There are opportunities and niche
markets almost everywhere, if you look for them.

According to a recent study conducted by SAP AG in 17 countries around the
world, increasing demand for mobile commerce services in developing
countries such as South Africa, Saudi Arabia and China, more than eight out
of 10 consumers were requiring more mobile interactions with banks, telco’s,
retailers, utilities and other businesses.

The study also indicated that businesses and consumers are increasingly
looking for more services, including researching products and services,
promotions, customer service inquiries and submitting electricity meter
readings to utility companies.

It is evident that the cloud is becoming increasingly ubiquitous and is
fuelling the spirit of entrepreneurship. Low net worth customers now have
access to the same type of services as those used by wealthy individuals and
as markets open up they are plump and ripe for the picking.

For mobile app developers, cloud computing has opened up the gates for early
adoption of new applications, which allows in particular SME customers to
access the cloud at a very low cost and access these applications tailored
for their regional market, workforce and shareholder needs. Additionally,
new applications no longer take months to deploy, but can be rolled out
within hours or days and tweaked as the market demands in order to drive
revenue.

With fixed cost and on-demand business application models provided by cloud
platform vendors already showing signs of maturity, it creates enormous
benefits for African mavericks that want to dip their toes in first, before
they take the plunge. Importantly, this negates the need for initial
top-heavy IT departments, expensive hardware and software infrastructure
outlay.

The cloud, thanks to its agility to interact and process large volumes of
big data and analytics, can help bring customised services to customers in a
cost-effective and efficient manner. Those companies that are first to
embrace the myriad of opportunities on African shores will reap the
benefits, and those that don’t, only time will tell…

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