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'East Africa in a good space now'

'East Africa in a good space now'

East Africa has a solid grasp of the principles of digital transformation and the outlook is generally positive, according to Ashley Boag, Acting Managing Director of SAP East Africa.

Countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania have demonstrated this and there is an appreciation for the value that innovation brings, says Boag.

"There is definite recognition that technology and African innovation need to be a big factor and focus. Governments and companies know they have to invest in innovation if they want to continue their growth paths and even leapfrog others. More and more companies around East Africa are asking what we see as the key threads in technologies such as big data and the Internet of Things. They are already wrapping their heads around it and they understand that to stay competitive, they have to make significant investments in the future."

The senior SAP executive cited Kenya's innovation hubs, including iHub, and Rwanda's aggressive broadband expansion as examples that illustrate this progression.

According to the company regional ambitions stretch as far as potential drone airports, though more immediate challenges are not being ignored. "There has been growing momentum across the spectrum of sectors: utilities, healthcare, financial services and agriculture are all experiencing technology investment led by leaders who understand they are aiming for more than just efficiency and savings. They are building the region's future," SAP adds.

"There is a renewed sense of cooperation and positivity in East Africa - quite a positive view and outlook going forward. It's moderated, but it is a general positive sentiment. When I was at the World Economic Forum on Africa, held in Rwanda recently, that sentiment came through multilaterally," Boag continues.

As far as the region's digital agenda is concerned, Boag says businesses are asking the right questions. "Many have skipped the efficiency, cost-saving level of thinking. Instead they wonder about what the relevant large trends coming to their industry and how they can engage with these to be relevant in the long term. It's a complex conversation, but there is a willingness to listen and a realisation that they have to come up with their own innovations."

The company believes that while digital transformation poses a challenge globally, East Africa has an opportunity to set an example on the continent.

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