Across Africa, rapid improvements to the telecoms infrastructure and increased investment in datacentres are paving the way for the continent’s organisations to embrace cloud computing. Large-scale adoption of cloud solutions such as infrastructure-as-a-service, software-as-a-service and security-as-a-service could drive significant economic benefits for many companies and countries.
We can expect to see the cloud transform African businesses in two major ways: by enabling them to improve operational performance as well as by giving them a platform for growth and innovation. When it comes to the first point, the cloud enables African organisations to put in place technology that allows them to automate basic processes or reduce IT costs and complexity.
Two factors that potentially limit the explosion in adoption of Cloud computing technology across the African continent are the positions that Governments are taking on the movement of data across international borders and the lack of ubiquitous and inexpensive data transport infrastructure.
One way that the cloud could change the game for African organisations is by allowing businesses with manual processes to automate for the first time and enabling those with legacy systems to migrate to new technology. The cloud makes it possible for organisations to access modern technology without needing to build a large datacentre or invest in an IT department—important benefits in a continent where IT skills and capital are in short supply.
Leveling the playing fields
In addition, the cloud levels the playing fields by giving smaller businesses access to solutions they could not afford in the past, for example, enterprise management or customer relationship management solutions. The cloud is particularly useful for organisations that are rapidly growing their branch networks, since cloud solutions can be rapidly deployed to any office that has a reliable Internet connection.
Another major benefit of the cloud is that it enables organisations to transform IT from a capital expense into an operating expense. Suddenly, organisations can access world-class technology without tying up capital they need for expansion and innovation. Related to this benefit is the way that the cloud enables organisations to transfer IT risk to a service provider.
Companies can scale cloud computing capacity up and down in response to changing business needs such as the size of the workforce, giving them an agile IT environment that can keep pace with a fast-changing business and technology landscape. They don’t need to be worried about locking themselves into technologies that become too expensive, rigid or difficult to maintain.
Cloud computing unlocks new strategic options
Once these basics are covered, we’ll see African organisations start to use the cloud in ways that are truly transformative for their businesses. Sure, it’s great that the cloud can help a company reduce email hosting costs or implement an affordable accounting package, but the exciting potential lies in using the cloud to unlock new strategic options for the organisation.
For example, the cloud enables companies to rapidly scale out into new locations and form new business partnerships, often on a global scale. If an agribusiness in Kenya wants to integrate its supply chain with a wholesaler in Europe, the cloud can help make it simpler and easier to share information.
Or if a microfinance institution in Nigeria wants to reach customers in new towns, it could appoint agents and enable them to use a cloud app to file loan applications. Real innovators can experiment with new solutions like the Internet of Things or machine learning without massive investments in their own software and servers.
Thus, in addition to solving many of the IT and business process pain points experienced by many businesses in Africa, the cloud will also be a catalyst for innovation and globalisation among African companies. With fibre and mobile broadband prices and speeds improving all the time, the cloud could become as transformative for African economies as was the cell phone.
Vinay Hiralall is the General Manager: Demand Generation at Tarsus On Demand.