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Africa’s cloud journey will gain impetus say tech pros

Market research shows that businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are years behind their international counterparts in terms of cloud adoption. However, there are some who say that despite the sluggish start, countries like South Africa are beginning to show progress and traction.

An article published by ITWeb this week referenced research by IDC in collaboration with Red Hat which showed that while SSA is undergoing significant transformation regarding the adoption of cloud and emerging technologies like AI, the region is two years behind global stats in cloud adoption and five years in terms of emerging tech.

The pandemic has stymied digital initiatives as companies dealt with the pandemic and the reality of having to adapt to a remote working model.

Johan Scheepers, solution architect leader at Red Hat Africa.
Johan Scheepers, solution architect leader at Red Hat Africa.

ITWeb reported that Johan Scheepers, solution architect leader at Red Hat Africa, noted Africa’s burgeoning datacentre industry has led to cloud activity hype on the continent.

However, many companies are still at the start of their cloud journey, he said.

This has led to an increased cloud skills gap, leaving firms desperate to fill the growing demand for digital skills.

“While we are seeing more businesses investing in hybrid environment or multi-cloud, there is a significant shortage of cloud skills and software developers in the region, amid a new way of developing new-age applications, including platform-as-a-service, database-as-a-service and data-collection-as-a-service.”

Slow start

Hemant Harie, Managing Director at Gabsten Technologies.
Hemant Harie, Managing Director at Gabsten Technologies.

Despite a slow start, cloud adoption is gaining momentum in South Africa said Hemant Harie, Managing Director at Gabsten Technologies.

In a thought leadership piece, Harie said, “In South Africa, the uptake of cloud computing was initially rather muted, mainly due to the lack of local presence by cloud vendors. Once having established themselves in the local market a few years ago, most cloud service providers had much to do in the area of educating customers about the cloud’s capabilities.”

“Not surprisingly, initial customer reaction was underpinned by some reluctance, as many enterprises had either already made long-term technology investments or were not ready to transition to a new technology and strategy. This is an understandable caution when faced with new technologies that have yet to prove viable and valuable. Fast forward to today, and we can safely say that cloud computing has gained significant traction in the South African market, with cloud-based solutions in some form or another finding their way into many businesses. In fact, we could say that almost all businesses now leverage some element of cloud, such as software- or platform-as-a-service. “

Harie added that the real turning point came when local businesses started looking at what cloud computing has enabled companies across the globe to achieve and determining how this could be aligned with South African regulations and business models. Based on this, many local companies started their cloud journey, often with the help and guidance of skilled cloud vendors and implementation partners to shape their cloud strategies.

But there are some pitfalls that businesses need to avoid when migrating to the cloud and asking the right questions can prevent headaches and unexpected costs.

“Importantly, customers need to understand that the cloud is a hosted platform, but protecting their data remains their responsibility. While making your company data available anytime and anywhere does have its advantages, there also needs to be security measures in place to restrict and control access. Therefore, it is important that companies understand where their data resides and how it is protected. And while the first part of protection is security, the second is backup and recovery. While most cloud vendors will offer hosting services for platforms or applications, the responsibility of recovering company data in an accident or disaster scenario is normally seen as a separate service and the responsibility of the customer,” said Harie.

Market acceleration

In June this year, Andrew Ngunjiri, Practice Manager: Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data East Africa, said the cloud market in Africa was undergoing transformation and acceleration.

Andrew Ngunjiri, Practice Manager: Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data East Africa.
Andrew Ngunjiri, Practice Manager: Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data East Africa.

Ngunjiri pointed to an EY study that highlighted a new wave of investments across Africa centred on companies migrating to the cloud to bolster efficiency and reduce operational costs.

“Events of the past two years have made it virtually impossible for people to move around. The cloud has therefore become an essential tool for businesses to survive. Beyond this, there are three reasons why the cloud has become a critical building block for the region. Firstly, it provides the business agility necessary to remain competitive. Secondly, the cloud helps to address any security and compliance concerns resulting from a rapidly evolving regulatory environment. And thirdly, the cloud injects a level of performance and operational efficiency not previously possible,” he said.

“Even though public and private cloud models provide benefits, we anticipate the hybrid cloud model to win the race for massive adoption. We are already seeing hybrid becoming the natural progression of cloud adoption in the region, with many organisations and governments opting for this model.”

Increased spend

Red Hat predicts that over the next few years, organisations and businesses in SSA will accelerate cloud migration initiatives – and this will impact on enterprise application spend.

As per the ITWeb report, Dion Harvey, regional general manager at Red Hat in Sub-Saharan Africa, said, “When we say that Africa is lagging in cloud adoption, it’s not because we are slower in adoption, it’s because we are perhaps behind time – we didn’t have some of the new cloud-based technologies at the time when they launched in the US and Europe – but I think that gap will slowly narrow going forward.”

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