[Kenya] VMware, Strathmore University partner to enhance digital skills in Africa

Working with VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa, the Strathmore University has already begun integrating a range of VMware developed courses into its curricula that cover topics such as virtualisation, cloud computing, AI and IoT.

VMware has announced the expansion of the VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa programme in partnership Strathmore University – @iLabAfrica Centre, Kenya.

The overarching goal according to VMware  is to empower the fast-growing, young African population to enter the digital workforce with confidence and expertise, helping to address the skills gap and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship across the continent.

Through the VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa programme, VMware is collaborating with key stakeholders across academia, government and industry to equip African students with the technical skills and certifications required to succeed in the digital economy.

Working with VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa, the Strathmore University has already begun integrating a range of VMware developed courses into its curricula that cover topics such as virtualisation, cloud computing, AI and IoT. This is facilitated through subsidised software licenses and certification vouchers from VMware.

@iLabAfrica, a Centre of Excellence in Research and Innovation in Information Communication Technology at the University, is spearheading the rollout with 20 trainers and over 100 students at the University participating. The students will benefit from access to high-quality learning online resources, hands-on lab experiences to develop technical skills, and the opportunity to achieve industry-recognised VMware certification to complement their chosen fields of study.

“We are delighted to be part of VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa. It provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to gain technical skills and industry-recognised VMware certifications, helping to jumpstart their careers with the best knowledge and skills of international standards. Our shared goal with VMware is to become the VMware IT Academy regional lead for East Africa, training lecturers and students from Strathmore and other universities plus facilitating their participation in the programme. Increased access to this type of education and training for students is a critical part of Africa realising the potential of its youth and a prosperous Africa,” said Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica, Strathmore University.

“Skills development is recognised as a key component for economic growth and prosperity. VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa helps educational institutions align curricula with the skills needed for the labour market, thereby building the right talent for Africa’s jobs of today and tomorrow. . Our discussions to form a strategic collaboration with Strathmore University is a significant milestone in this program, and will bring new skills and opportunities to its students, and in the future to many more young people in East Africa,” said Thomas MacKay, Senior Director for Global Strategic Programs, VMware.

www.vmware.com

[Column] Harish Chib: Seven best practices for securing the public cloud

The simplicity and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud have led more and more organizations to take advantage of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). You can spin up a new instance in minutes, scale resources up and down whenever you need while only paying for what you use, and avoid high upfront hardware costs. 

While the public cloud solves many traditional IT resourcing challenges, it does introduce new headaches. The rapid growth of cloud usage has resulted in a fractured distribution of data, with workloads spread across disparate instances and, for some organizations, platforms. As a result, keeping track of the data, workloads, and architecture changes in those environments to keep everything secure is often a highly challenging task.

Public cloud providers are responsible for the security of the cloud (the physical datacenters, and the separation of customer environments and data). However, the responsibility for securing the workloads and data placed in the cloud lies firmly with the customer. Just as organisations need to secure the data stored in their on-premises networks, so they need to secure their cloud environment. Misunderstandings around this distribution of ownership is widespread and the resulting security gaps have made cloud-based workloads the new pot of gold for today’s savvy hackers. 

Seven Steps to Securing the Public Cloud

The secret to effective cybersecurity in the cloud is improving your overall security posture: ensuring your architecture is secure and configured correctly, that you have the necessary visibility into your architecture, and importantly, into who is accessing it.

Step 1: Learn your responsibilities

This may sound obvious, but security is handled a little differently in the cloud. Public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform run a shared responsibility model – meaning they ensure the security of the cloud, while you are responsible for anything you place in the cloud.

Step 2: Plan for multi-cloud

Multi-cloud is no longer a nice-to-have strategy.  Rather, it’s become a must have strategy. There are many reasons why you may want to use multiple clouds, such as availability, improved agility, or functionality. When planning your security strategy start with the assumption that you’ll run multi-cloud – if not now, at some point in the future. In this way you can future-proof your approach.

Step 3: See everything

If you can’t see it, you can’t secure it. That’s why one of the biggest requirements to getting your security posture right is getting accurate visibility of all your cloud-based infrastructure, configuration settings, API calls, and user access.

Step 4: Integrate compliance into daily processes

The dynamic nature of the public cloud means that continuous monitoring is the only way to ensure compliance with many regulations. The best way to achieve this is to integrate compliance into daily activities, with real-time snapshots of your network topology and real-time alerts to any changes.

Step 5: Automate your security controls

Cybercriminals increasingly take advantage of automation in their attacks. Stay ahead of the hackers by automating your defenses, including remediation of vulnerabilities and anomaly reporting.

Step 6: Secure ALL your environments (including dev and QA)

You need a solution that can secure your all environments (production, development, and QA) both reactively and proactively

Step 7: Apply your on-premises security learnings

On-premises security is the result of decades of experience and research. Use firewalls and server protection to secure your cloud assets against infection and data loss, and keep your endpoint and email security up to date on your devices to prevent unauthorized access to cloud accounts.

Moving from traditional to cloud-based workloads offers huge opportunities for organizations of all sizes. Yet securing the public cloud is imperative if you are to protect your infrastructure and organization from cyberattacks. By following the seven steps you can maximize the security of your public clouds, while also simplifying management and compliance reporting.

Harish Chib is the Vice President, Middle East & Africa of Sophos.

[Column] Kree Govender: Why cloud hasn’t had a big impact on Business Intelligence

Although the notion of network-based computing stems right back to the 1960s, the modern term “cloud computing” arose in the 2000s. Yet, almost two decades later, South Africa still lags in both its adoption, and its use for critical functions like business intelligence (BI). 

While many believe that this is largely due to a lack of local data centre infrastructure, the landing of the Azure data centres in Africa will drastically change the Cloud landscape across the continent. “This effectively eradicates the fear of shifting massive datasets offshore to global data centres,” confirms Kree Govender, Managing Director of South Africa Qlik Master Reseller (SAQMR). 

The current hesitance towards Cloud adoption in Africa is illustrated by the Qlik implementations across the continent. Statistics show that as much as 95% of Qlik’s customers in Africa are on premise. 

“Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will migrate entirely away from on-premises data centres with the current trend of moving workloads to colocation, hosting and the cloud leading them to shut down their traditional data centre,” adds Govender. “If these predictions prove accurate, the new data centres will mean there’s no longer anything holding Africa back from catching up with the rest of the world.” 

Adam Barrie-Smith, Chief Technology Officer at SAQMR, believes that the Qlik platform is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the benefits that these data centres will offer. “This will complement extensive mobile analysis testing using Qlik’s SaaS and Cloud business, leveraging Qlik Senses’ multi-Cloud capabilities. The first advantage is the data centre, the next will be the containerised cloud environment which is set to follow soon.”  

To Barrie-Smith, one of the greatest benefits of local data centres is enhanced identity management. “Let’s consider the impact on the banking industry, for example. Most African banks still hold on-premise hardware, which is now reaching retirement age. The question now becomes, should they invest in more hardware or virutalise? With the new data centres, our banking customers will find it much simpler and more cost-effective to embrace the Cloud, through a hosted layer within Azure.” 

While making Cloud adoption easier, the new data centres also offer rich integration capabilities, enhanced virtualisation opportunities, a more elastic environment and greater security. “With the local Azure data centres, African organisations will be empowered to embrace hybrid cloud, and we predict a much greater cloud drive,” concludes Govender.  

 Kree Govender is the Managing Director of South Africa Qlik Master Reseller (SAQMR). 

[Column] Andrew Cruise: Two years until Infrastructure as a Service boom hits South Africa

Routed, a leading vendor neutral provider of cloud infrastructure, says that the predicted growth of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is in line with the increasing growth forecasts for cloud computing. Andrew Cruise, managing director, Routed, says that while IaaS is seen as an emerging opportunity in Africa, the work has already started locally with demand increasing as awareness of cloud capabilities increase.

“Since launching three years ago, we have seen a steady increase in both interest and deployment of cloud infrastructure services. As cloud computing grows, so too does the need for cloud-based infrastructure resources,” says Cruise. “Without IaaS there is no Cloud: IaaS is the foundation for all Cloud services. Now that connectivity is fast, cheap and reliable we have reached the tipping point in South Africa where general interest in Cloud has switched into action.”

According to The Xalam Rise of Cloud Report 2019, South Africa is the largest cloud market on the continent. The country accounts for 75% of Africa’s total cloud revenue and Xalam says that this is unsurprising as around 60% of the continent’s enterprise ICT services revenues are generated in South Africa. Routed, which featured in the report as a leading provider of cloud infrastructure resources, says that IaaS is the fastest growing category in the African cloud space, averaging around 120% annually over the three years at 2018.

The report also estimated that around 80% of Africa’s public cloud revenue is generated from SaaS applications. To a large extent this reflects the embryonic nature of this market; SaaS is a cloud starting platform for most businesses according to Xalam.

Guy Zibi, managing director, Xalam Analytics, says IaaS is seen as more of a long-term player, estimating that South Africa is two years away from a true boom: “From a low base – IaaS is the fastest-growing cloud services segment across our cloud value chain.”

Cruise says that one factor influencing the growth and potential of IaaS is what Xalam refers to as the VMWare factor. The availability of VMWare virtualisation solutions is providing African MSPs with a platform to compete with hyperscale providers on IaaS; while they can’t match the capabilities of AWS or Azure, MSPs have increasingly been able to offer local-centric IaaS services, with support and other benefits not offered by global cloud providers.

“For more than a decade, VMware’s solutions have been the go-to virtualisation and management platform for enterprises requiring uptime, security and performance on-premise. Now enterprises can be reassured that the same outcome can be delivered using specialist, certified VMware Cloud Providers, without internalising risk, or investing in facilities, hardware, software and engineering resources,” says Cruise.

Andrew Cruise is the managing director at Routed.

afriQloud – Time for more African businesses to move to the cloud

The African cloud has arrived. Yesterday, afriQloud went live in Uganda, with plans to launch in 15  additional African countries in 2020. 

afriQloud will provide, at internationally competitive rates, local and foreign customers with an innovative and secure distributed edge cloud service.  It is a product of pan-African connectivity provider, BringCom, science and technology investor, Imprimatur Capital, and European edge cloud software company GIG Technology.

afriQloud comes at a time when African businesses are making massive investments in things like machine learning and artificial intelligence tools and are using cloud and virtualized infrastructure to enhance service delivery. Large retail firms are using compute capabilities and AWS databases to transform how they reach a predominantly mobile and digital customer base. And scores of African cloud-native startups are leveraging the cloud to disrupt entire industry sectors.

The cloud services sector in the continent might be in its early stages of development, the impact of cloud services is already far-reaching. 

Why is afriQloud important?

Well, as I mentioned earlier African businesses and organisations are making massive investments in cloud services. In fact, for African markets, cloud, virtualization and the broader evolution towards serverless computing are the most disruptive technology developments since the advent of the mobile payment revolution. 

Hans van Linschoten, founding partner of Imprimatur Capital Africa and CEO of afriQloud said in a statement yesterday  “We see significant potential in the growing African cloud market where an estimated $2 billion is being spent in cloud this year’’

Most of Africa’s content on the internet is however hosted on servers outside the continent. afriQloud is bringing those servers to Africa and African businesses need to take advantage of this. Businesses will now be able to access virtual IT technology and infrastructure; streamlined software and applications; and efficient backups and disaster recovery systems. Cloud technology provides access to software that ultimately reduces costs on so many levels, and can be customised to best suit the relevant business, it is the perfect solution for SMEs in Africa to ensure they remain competitive in the global market.

Opening up of the global market according to Fabrice Langreney, CEO of BringCom will require African companies and organizations to be equally competitive in the deployment of e-solutions, scalability, secure data accessibility and connectivity in line with international standards. This will also help them to design their own map to cloud success. By doing so, African businesses have almost limitless paths and roadways that they can draw – and reshape – to help drive their business growth.

Remember the solution for Africa’s challenges will come from within Africa. Technology is the same all over the world; the difference lies in building solutions that answer and address local socio-economic challenges. With afriQloud, companies in Africa can now emerge from a situation where they have had more rudimentary applications and business processes to where they have unleashed the power of cloud technologies which makes it easier and far more efficient to automate services.

‘’…..and we’re excited to bring this service to the continent. By the end of 2019, we will complement the few developed markets clouds with a powerful and local distributed cloud in at least 15 countries. This ensures data sovereignty for institutions and governments within Africa’s shores.”  Hans van Linschoten concluded. 


www.afriqloud.com

Ooredoo Algeria deploys Nokia Cloud Mobile Gateway to transform its network for next-generation broadband services

This is a crucial step for the migration of core network elements to the cloud and paves the way for the transformation of the core network to support next generation mobile network technology.

Nokia is helping Ooredoo Algeria take the first step towards next-generation networks and reinforce its technology leadership in the region with the successful deployment of North Africa’s first virtualized Mobile Gateway. This is a crucial step for the migration of core network elements to the cloud and paves the way for the transformation of the core network to support next generation mobile network technology.

The deployment allows Ooredoo Algeria to meet growing data demand in the region, and provide new and innovative services like Internet of Things (IoT), in addition to enhanced broadband to its subscribers. Once deployed, Ooredoo Algeria’s subscribers will be able to enjoy high bandwidth-consuming services, delivering the best possible performance and reliability.

Nokia’s Cloud Mobile Gateway has been installed and placed into commercial service. Nokia will be deploying more gateways in the near future.

Next Generation Core (NGC) is a service-based architecture that calls for the evolution of the core network. Deployment of the Cloud Mobile Gateway is one of the most important steps in this transformation. It will help Ooredoo Algeria deliver a seamless network experience across fixed and wireless access technologies. With the help of the Nokia AirFrame data center solution, Ooredoo Algeria will be able to deliver telco applications that demand low latency.

 “Collaboration with Nokia for this initiative will help us in transforming our networks for next generation mobile broadband services and reinforcing our technology leadership. Nokia’s field-proven, end-to-end solution will enable us to enhance packet core capacity and to start the process of cloudification for telco applications. With this solution, we will be able to support more users, devices and services over wireless and fixed access. We are proud to continue our pioneering technology deployments with the implementation of this first virtualized network application in North Africa. We look forward to working with Nokia for future projects as well.” Mr. Abdullatif Hamad Dafallah, Chief Executive Officer at Ooredoo Algeria, said.

 Pierre Chaume, Head of the North and West Africa Market Unit at Nokia, added that “The consumption of data is increasing across the world and telcos are grappling with ever-increasing demand for capacity. The deployment of the Cloud Mobile Gateway will help Ooredoo Algeria in the evolution of the core network to enable its customers to enjoy high-bandwidth services, delivered with the highest possible performance and reliability.”

www.nokia.com

www.ooredoo.dz

[South Africa] Birst 7 brings centralized and decentralized analytics to the enterprise

The Birst 7 software release is generally available (GA) now, as both a cloud-based offering and as an on-premise virtual appliance

Birst, an Infor company and a leader in Cloud Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics for the Enterprise, recently announced Birst 7, a major new software release that brings centralised and decentralised analytics to the enterprise, in a single platform. The new release empowers enterprises to deliver trusted, governed insights, across the organisation, balancing freedom and control, through a modern, consumer-grade user interface designed for scalability and speed.  

“Birst 7 provides an entirely new data modeling experience that extends Birst’s patented data warehouse automation technology and a completely re-imagined administration module for managing centralised and decentralised deployments, including new auditing features and more granular user management capabilities,” confirms Mark Bannerman, Managing Director at EOH Infor Services, Infor’s Master Partner in Africa, operating as a Gold Partner.

“This enables enterprise organisations to democratise data modeling while still maintaining centralised compliance and governance. Key capabilities include enterprise data modeling and self-service data preparation in a unified, easy-to-use interface, enterprise administration with advanced data orchestration, and Birst Smart Analytics.”  

Birst Smart Analytics is a new set of AI-enabled capabilities that elevate organisations above traditional reports and dashboards, using machine learning algorithms to power intelligent insights not previously available to business users.

The Birst 7 software release is generally available (GA) now, as both a cloud-based offering and as an on-premise virtual appliance. The virtual appliance offers the exact same rich capabilities, upgrade path and level of support as the enterprise cloud version, so enterprises can move from one deployment model to another to meet their strategic and operational goals.

“With fourteen different ERP and reporting instances distributed globally, one consistent definition of revenue was challenging to calculate, especially when using different currency rates,” said Marcus Williams, Business Intelligence Developer at Carlisle Fluid Technologies, a global company that manufactures equipment for the supply and application of paints, coatings and sprayed materials. “We have been successfully using Birst over the last three years to move users to a central BI system across regions, while also giving our business units the freedom and agility to do their own analysis to better track information across finance, sales, and supply chain.”

“We can now maintain a single version of revenue and continually build out trusted KPIs, based on Birst’s unique Value Based Design methodology,” Williams said. “We are excited about Birst 7 because our growing deployment will greatly benefit from productivity gains using a new, modern interface to onboard new developers and manage more complex workflows for data integration and loading, as well as granular user/role management and auditing.”

Organisations are currently challenged to manage governed enterprise analytics from a centralised administration team, while still empowering local, self-service customisation from a globally distributed, decentralised analytics team.

Birst 7 enables organisations to create enterprise-wide, trusted Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and complex enterprise data models, and, at the same time, it allows decentralised teams to extend analytics with their own data, in a way that is easy to use, scalable and repeatable. In addition, control of centrally managed data assets can be shared with decentralised teams, without the need to replicate or duplicate data, ensuring continuity and trust.

“We’re focused on making everyone from enterprise administrators, to data modelers, to business users, more productive and on driving actionable analytics out to the edge of the enterprise,” said Bhargav Addala, Birst Vice President of Product Management. “We’re empowering global organisations to deliver trusted, governed metrics to decentralised analytics teams, which can extend and enrich the ‘shared version of the truth’ semantic layer, using self-service data preparation built specifically for the needs of the business. All of this is delivered through a unified, easy-to-use, modern interface providing every analytics consumer and creator the tools they need to tackle any analytics use case.”

www.birst.com

[Column] Nixon Kanali: Cloud, an essential component for every African business

Cloud computing has been in existence for almost two decades now helping businesses stay secure from cyber threats. The technology points to business efficiencies, cost benefits and holds a very competitive advantage.

Currently, a large portion of the African business community continues to operate in the cloud. In fact, according to a study by International Data Group, 69% of businesses around the globe are already using cloud technology in one capacity or another, and 18% say they plan to implement cloud-computing solutions at some point.

A previous report by Dell also revealed that companies that invest in big data, cloud, mobility and even security enjoy up to 53% revenue growth than their competitors.

The African cloud has arrived

Why therefore should businesses in Africa take cloud computing seriously? Well, Africa’s cloud and data centre ecosystem will soon become a land of serious opportunity. Bottom line, the African cloud has arrived and more African businesses need to take advantage of this.  The cloud services sector might still be in its early stages of development, but the impact is already far-reaching.

According to The “The Rise of the African Cloud: Azure, AWS, Vmware and the Battle to Transform African Enterprise Markets” report African banks for example are making investments in machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to improve the customer experience and credit risk; new “digital banks” are emerging, that are, at least in part, cloud-based. Governments are also using cloud and virtualized infrastructure to enhance public service delivery. Large retail firms are using compute capabilities and AWS databases to transform how they reach a predominantly mobile and digital customer base – and scores of African cloud-native startups are leveraging the cloud to disrupt entire industry sectors.

‘’The African cloud may be small, but it is already here indeed, and it is growing fast.’’ the report notes.

CEOs and CIOs in Africa should now have cloud at the centre of their digital transformation strategies if they want to stay in business. The ability to harvest, store and sort big data is a critical element of business competitiveness and according to a recent column by Avinash Ramtohul, the Managing Director, Mauritius and Cloud Architect Leader, Sub-Saharan Africa at Oracle published on African Business Communities, the higher the use of autonomous technologies, the more the competitive edge!

A recent report by Xalam Analytics predicted that top line annual cloud services revenue in Africa is set to double between now and 2023, and public cloud services revenue to triple in that time.

“Few other segments in the African ICT space are as likely to generate an incremental $2bn in top-line revenue over the next five years, and at least as much in adjacent enabling ecosystem revenue,” the report noted. “But the broader upside is unmistakable, and the battle for the African cloud is only beginning.”

Cloud computing leads to faster development and quicker learning within organisations, therefore accelerates innovation as it drastically removes costly overheads when it comes to maintenance and updates. It should, therefore, become an essential component of every African business transformation.

Nixon Kanali is the Tech Editor for the Africa Business Communities

SEACOM launches direct-to-corporate connectivity and cloud services in Uganda

Pan-African telecoms enabler SEACOM has further extended its corporate market offering into the East African region, under its SEACOM Business brand, by providing its Internet connectivity and cloud services directly to corporate customers in Uganda.

SEACOM has been a leading data connectivity provider in Uganda enabling access though the service provider segment.  It is now bolstering its presence in Kampala by expanding its enterprise reach and will now be able to provide corporate organisations in Uganda with reliable data connectivity and cloud services. SEACOM will provide a corporate-grade consistent service quality by leveraging SEACOM’s existing high-speed fiber-based network infrastructure that extends from Kampala onto its diverse subsea international backbone.

Speaking during the launch, SEACOM’s Managing Director for the Eastern North and East Africa region, Tonny Tugee, said the new development is part of the telecoms provider’s plan to strengthen its position as the regional connectivity provider with the ability to link businesses together within Africa and globally.

“We own and operate our core data backbone network end-to-end, enabling us to offer seamless and cost-effective solutions across the region. In addition, we have highly skilled experts here in Uganda with all the tools customers will need to scale up on the services that they may require now or in future,” said Mr. Tugee.

Since its launch in July 2009, SEACOM has steadily increased the availability of international bandwidth and now operates more than 1.2 Terabits of lit capacity on the SEACOM subsea cable system. SEACOM has risen to the forefront of providing hyper-scale data infrastructure, starting as a carrier’s carrier before diversifying to managed data network services and now cloud computing services. The company aims to leverage its existing high-speed fiber network infrastructure in Uganda that currently covers Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja, Mbarara and Gulu.

In addition to the services that are already being provided locally through local last-mile partners, SEACOM will be riding on its abundant and scalable capacity to deliver cloud services, dedicated, low latency transmission connectivity and VPN connectivity through international partner networks.

“Migration to Cloud Services will help our customers to improve business processes and significantly reduce costs. This, in addition to our redundant connectivity ring around the continent, will provide an ultimate ‘data home’ for your business,” explained Francis Ndegwa, SEACOM Senior Product Manager.

Recently, SEACOM partnered with Microsoft to launch a cloud service that allows customers to extend their on-premises networks into the cloud without going over the public internet. The service, dubbed Azure ExpressRoute, enables customers to create private connections between data centres and infrastructure on their premises or in a cloud environment.

The ExpressRoute partnership has already recorded success with a number of corporate customers such as M-KOPA – the world’s leading pay-as-you-go off-grid solar company, which is now able to deploy its IT technologies in a seamless and reliable manner to bring power to over 750,000 homes across East Africa.

SEACOM launched the first broadband submarine cable system along the East African coastline in 2009 linking South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique with several major hubs in Europe and Asia. The company has been pivotal in ICT infrastructure development in Africa through ensuring the provision of high-speed, reliable and secure connectivity to cloud services and other online tools across the continent. Today, SEACOM offers a redundant connectivity ring around Africa’s east and west coasts, optimal traffic routing, and resiliency through multiple tier-1 upstream partners in Europe and Asia. It also offers direct connectivity to African routes and content.

www.seacom.mu

[Column] Andrew Sordam: The huge opportunity for consolidation and cloud in Africa

It is only 100 days since I took up the post of VP for Africa at Oracle, but already it is clear why the continent is such a priority for the company, and why it is considered a land of opportunity in the tech space.

Consolidation of modernisation

Africa is seeing huge population growth, and a marked increase in consumer spending, resulting in a big demand for 24/7 service. The much-discussed leapfrogging effect, which we have seen in areas like power and telecommunications, has helped the continent develop at speed, but it has also placed huge demands on modern businesses.

Companies of various shapes and sizes are taking advantage of the newest tech to improve the way they do business, but a major, more recent trend is that many are now looking at the consolidation of this modernisation. These are companies that are growing very quickly, and they want seamless and complete integration between the front and back office.

This is happening across the board – major corporates, SMEs, financial services companies, those in retail, in financial services, for example, East and West African banks are beginning to merge, with such mergers requiring new strategies.

Adoption of technology is not just for the commercial sector, however. In the public sector, greater efficiencies are also being sought. Each government department used to have its own IT department, but that is now changing, and we are seeing convergence into one service centre. This is a big trend across the continent. The public sector, like the private sector, is looking for integrated technologies to help it become more effective and keep up with demand.

Vertical strategies

Herein lies the opportunity for a company like Oracle. We help private, public sector organisations develop and improve processes and more, and more we are looking at complete solutions.

The opportunity is massive in Africa in this regard. We see the impact of our organisation in every line of business. We are able to give customers choice to either go in with the entire stack – from apps, to infrastructure, to vertical solutions or multiple modular journeys to the cloud. In each instance, this is based on business needs and can be either private or public cloud. And that impact is set to be further scaled with our new approach on the continent.

Our CEO Mark Hurd spoke recently about our plans for leveraging our leading Software-as-a-service (SaaS) business to seize business-to-business (B2B) market share. Africa is no different to anywhere else in this regard, though we see a particular opportunity in increasing our cloud business here, and will focus on this more and more.

Oracle’s model encourages the adoption of cloud particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, giving businesses the benefit of flexibility. Because we invest so much in innovation, it is easy for customers to manage, and we embed more optimisation than anyone else. Apps and databases are embedded with artificial intelligence (AI), making our services easy to adopt – a major benefit. Our solutions can basically run your business, saving you money on human capital.

Yet where we truly stand out at Oracle is our cloud autonomous play. We have an advantage here, with the autonomous category being our own invention, and believe customers in Africa will adopt this technology and improve their businesses as a result.

The Oracle Autonomous Database, for example, completely reshapes our customer’s approach to IT, helping them free their budgets and resources to focus on business growth while reducing risk.

Using machine learning and AI-driven technology, our cloud services can be upgraded, optimised, secured, patched and tuned automatically, without human intervention. Easy management encourages adoption, which speeds business growth, vital to economic development in emerging economies such as those in Africa.

A full ecosystem

For all the exciting trends and opportunities I have spotted in my first 100 days, however, there are also a myriad of challenges.

At the heart of it all are skills. The tech may be there, but you still need the knowledge from within each industry and within each country to maintain a certain level of service. That is why Oracle does not just sell products but also invests in capacity. The growth of Africa as a business hub – and therefore the success of our business on the continent – depends on building a self-sustaining ecosystem.

That is why we focus on developing digital skills across the continent. Our open platform for developers works with local coding communities to build developer skills, while we also partner with development agencies, NGOs, NPOs, and educational institutions, among others, to address ICT skills shortages.

That is also why we look at accelerating startups and entrepreneurs, and building skill sets across many countries. We recently announced, for example, the Ghana-Oracle Digital Enterprise Programme, a collaborative effort that will support 500 technology-enabled startups and entrepreneurs across Ghana through access to Oracle Cloud technology, mentoring and workshops, and business-enablement and support resources. SMEs are the backbone of emerging market economies, and it is vital we support them.

We want to run initiatives like this in other countries too. Tech is key, but we feel knowledge needs to be nurtured as well.

A bright future

Oracle has been present in Africa for nearly three decades, but never before have we been as excited for the future here as we are now. This is demonstrated by the launch of our first Oracle Innovation Hub on the continent, located in South Africa, to help drive the implementation of emerging technologies across the country’s businesses, public sector and academia.

Andrew Sordam is the Vice President for sub-Saharan Africa at Oracle