The coming dominance of the cloud in East Africa will benefit everyone, but SMEs in particular can find prosperity.
Cloud is the word on the lips of business owners everywhere. The talk is that it has changed the face of doing business and transforms every industry that it touches for the better. Sceptics might be tempted to look at such optimism and dismiss it as nothing more than hype, but their objections can be silenced by
reviewing the sheer number of organisations worldwide who have revolutionised their practices by embracing cloud technologies.
Can East Africa look forward to the metamorphic potential for economic and societal upheaval of the cloud? Of course, this is inevitable. The more pertinent question will be how soon will we be in the throes of a cloud-based business revolution? The continent is perfectly poised to fully embrace cloud computing thanks to the mobile-centricity of its population and the geographic realities of its landscape that make traditional enterprise business models problematic. Indeed, a 2013 research study predicts that the growth of cloud traffic in Africa will experience a compound annual growth rate of 57% by 2017.
Cloud computing will have a tangible impact on all sectors of society, but one sector in particular which could majorly benefit is the SME market. The agility and big data management capabilities of the cloud coupled with the comparatively low cost of entry make it an extremely attractive option for African entrepreneurs with grand ambitions and limited resources.
One of the greatest strength of cloud computing is the new model of IT operations it offers. Where once companies were required to invest in costly IT infrastructure that was both limited and required extensive internal resources to keep running, the cloud model allows them to purchase or lease resources online, as and when needed, freeing them from internal management costs.
Businesses whose size or remoteness prevented them from implementing a comprehensive on-premise IT architecture across their entire organisation can
for the first time enjoy extensive visibility and control of every aspect of their operations.
One of the greatest challenges of doing business in Africa is the sheer size of the continent coupled with its relative paucity of access. Operating in remote locations becomes a lesson in poor communication, limited control, and lack of important data. End-to-end networks structured around a central cloud change all of this. Securely accessing the necessary data becomes a triviality rather than a burden, and decisions can be made in real time. This leads to higher levels of productivity, better resource management, simplified deployment, and greater visibility.
The flexibility of these services means that businesses can tailor their offerings to suit the needs of their own regional markets. Customer service in particular can be improved and personalised to ensure loyalty and returns. Data analytics allow for in depth insight into one’s business operations, as well as the means with which to act when changes need to be made.
The streamlining of all essential processes has an added incentive – the reduction of costs that might otherwise have been incurred through unnecessary maintenance, financial irregularities, poor planning, or procurement issues. The low cost of entry combined with the quick ROI make it the ideal means through which companies, particularly those with limited levels of capital, can gain market leadership.
Soon, East Africa will enjoy the same patterns of customised services and efficient processes that the rest of the world is experiencing, but those who embrace this technology early enough are the ones who will truly profit. The cloud is an open doorway through which ambitious entrepreneurs and small-business owners only need walk