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Africa’s digital journey picks up pace and offers clear opportunity

Keith Matthews, Country Manager for South Africa and Sales Director Sub Saharan Africa at Orange Business Services.
Keith Matthews, Country Manager for South Africa and Sales Director Sub Saharan Africa at Orange Business Services.

In many respects markets across Africa have been quick to explore and adopt 4IR, and with that facilitate for a greater digital transformation within societies and economies.

This is according to Keith Matthews, Country Manager for South Africa and Sales Director Sub Saharan Africa at Orange Business Services.

Matthews says almost all sectors have integrated digital transformation into their processes and business models, with some industries leading the way, including financial services, e-government, mining and energy, logistics, fisheries, manufacturing, eHealth, and retail.

He believes Africa is positioning itself to take advantage of the broader global opportunities, specifically because the international community is beginning to reconsider its view of the Africa market.

“Many African countries have capitalised on this opportunity and have revised the regulatory framework to allow for greater and faster investment and development. The world has also come to realise that the African market represents one of the largest sourced of untapped commercial opportunities. As it stands now, I believe that markets throughout Africa represent one of the best opportunities for businesses to not only realise market growth, but also to explore new methods, address challenges and processes that are unique to countries in Africa.”

Cloud-first strategy

Matthews says the company continues to experience a sharp uptake of cloud, with many local and international businesses prioritising a cloud-first strategy.

He adds that the collaboration with Amazon Web Services in 2020 strengthened the company’s position.

“In addition to our partnership with AWS, Orange Business Services signed partnerships with both Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Our partnerships with three of the world’s largest cloud service providers arms us with a comprehensive service offering.”

“… cloud first strategies aim to address various challenges, but among the priorities are that all operations must be connected, that the safety and security for these connections are guaranteed, that the network can allow for increased flexibility, scalability and end-to-end visibility, improving both the user and customer experience. Our flexible SD-WAN solution has helped us build a resilient, secure cloud-based infrastructure that lets us tackle moving business challenges in an unpredictable marketplace.”

“First and foremost, we think that any business with a vision of surfing on the benefits of a predominantly digital-first future should evolve into SD-WAN. The predominant driver is the movement towards business in the cloud and cloud-native software. Cloud migration is the main driver of SD-WAN transformation, which is becoming an essential tool for IT departments that are increasingly becoming service brokers for a variety of SaaS applications. By using SD-WAN to manage multiple applications across different service providers, the IT department can offer a diverse portfolio of applications while managing end-to-end visibility and service quality over the supporting network.”

Next-gen SD-WAN

Matthews says digital and cloud transformation is also an opportunity to move to next generation SD-WAN in order to optimise the network and deliver all the benefits to the business of the increased flexibility and agility – essential to business at any time, but vital in times of dramatic change.

“We can see the sectors that are transforming at the fastest rates and, not surprisingly, these include retail, retail banking, transport & logistics, all of which are very active. In the banking sector for example, cloud migration and digital transformation starts at the first level of non-banking applications, where it offers flexible costs and a basis for unified communications services in the cloud. Beyond this, we usually see a shift of the datacentre to the public cloud, moving from Software-as-a-Service to Platform-as-a-Service.”

This is where the benefits of SD-WAN transformation really start to kick-in. These include additional flexibility, agility and scalability, as well as the option of pay-as-you-go, he continues.

“The real value of SD-WAN is taking back control, and even if the transformation process is underway, SD-WAN can be retrofitted to ensure you can monitor performance and accelerate your network transformation.”

Sheer size a challenge

Matthews says the sheer size of the continent and the number of countries on the continent creates challenges which include logistics, legal and regulatory complexity on top of the infrastructure ones.

He agrees that data management, protection and manipulation is at the forefront of any DX strategy in Africa, and regulation has a key role to play.

From a global point of view, the larger economies like the US and Europe lead the way because of their sheer scale, adds Matthews.

“However, almost all of the nations within Africa are advancing with the adoption and revision of legislation and regulation to facilitate and ease their ability to do business with the leading global economies.

“We feel that this work and the efforts done in this field by each African country are really essential. Of course, regulation that is compatible with the one in surrounding countries as well as with other continents should make life easier for businesses. “

What next

Rather than focus on any discussion around market dominance in Africa, Matthews reiterates the position of Orange Business Services in terms of services and supply.

He says the company often serves in the role of services integrator, working with the existing assets of the customer and with several partners specialising each in their own market to deliver what the customer needs.

“So our job is to deliver quality to each customer, by leveraging the potential of our partners and suppliers ecosystem. Whenever relevant, we collaborate of course also with the Orange operations that are part of the Orange Group throughout the continent.”

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