[Africa Cloud Review] Simon Ngunjiri: Africa is an emerging data center market

Africa is an emerging data center market and has witnessed around 15 data center investments in 2020.  The region is experiencing growth in internet penetration, which can be a major driver for data center investors.

The growth in the adoption of IoT and big data analytics services will result in the rapid growth of data center development in Africa. This is according to a new report by ReportLinker, a market research solution. 

The report, released last week, notes that the market is evolving, and investments are expected to rise significantly with contributions from local and global data center operators.

The continent currently requires a 1000 megawatts and 700 data centers facilities. The demand has been growing over the last decade – following a similar path to industry development across the globe, as content consumption becomes more of a priority

Data centers are being utilized more than ever. ‘’ For example, the world’s largest internet exchange facility, DE-CIX Frankfurt, saw on-average data traffic increases of 10 percent in early March last year as people started staying at home. Our switch to video conferencing, which has seen triple digit growth, is another example of changing habits and the need to understand how our data usage will affect our data centers.’’  Carol Koech, the Country President, Schneider Electric East Africa said in a column published recently.

Last week, Africa Data Centres announced plans to build large hyperscale data centres throughout Africa, including the North African countries of Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.The project will involve building 10 hyperscale data centres, in 10 countries, over the next two years – at a cost of more than US$500m. It is being funded through new equity and facilities from leading development finance institutions and multilateral organisations.

Data center spending is also going up with research firm Gartner estimating that end-user spending on global data center infrastructure is projected to reach US$200 billion in 2021, up 6% from 2020. 

The priority for most companies in 2020 according to Naveen Mishra, senior research director at Gartner is keeping the lights on, so data center growth is generally being pushed back until the market enters the recovery period. Gartner expects larger enterprise data centers sites to hit pause temporarily and then resume expansion plans later this year or early next. However, hyperscalers will continue with their global expansion plans due to continued investments in public cloud.

South Africa is the leading colocation data center market in Africa, with high cloud-based service adoption, increased enterprise digitalization drive, and migration from on-premises facilities expected to drive the data center market in the country.  The market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 15.17% during the period 2020−2026. In 2020, Teraco Data Environments, Africa Data Centre, NTT Global Data Centers were the major data center investors in the country. For instance, Teraco Data Environments’ JB1 and JB3 facilities added a space of over 43,000 square feet.

Bottom line, Africa is by far the most exciting region when it comes to digital growth and data centers are the basis of this growth.

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at  Incentro Africa.

BT helps financial services industry set course for the cloud

Telecommunications and network provider BT has announced a portfolio of industry-tailored solutions to help financial services firms take a controlled approach to adopting cloud. 

BT Cloud Control for Financial Services helps customers’ IT teams address the challenges they face in balancing the risks and rewards of moving their applications and secure data to the cloud; it helps chart the path to growth and delivering outstanding digital experiences.

The portfolio combines BT’s deep expertise and extensive capabilities in cloud, networking and security services. It builds on the company’s partnerships with leading public cloud providers, flexible connectivity into hyperscalers and regional datacentres and decades of experience providing cyber security services and industry-specific solutions. This includes operating the BT Radianz Cloud, one of the world’s largest secure, financial markets cloud communities.

BT’s security-first approach helps customers determine how to protect, enable or prevent access to applications and data in line with business and regulatory needs. Experts help customers understand what to move to the cloud and consider all operational, security and regulatory factors so migration can be done in a secure and resilient way with minimal or no impact on end-user experience. If a customer needs to maintain its own data centre services, BT can deploy a software-defined solution to deliver cloud-like agility, automation and improved performance.

The end result for customers is a secure, multi-cloud environment managed by BT with certified staff, auditable processes and contractual assurances to optimise costs, protect applications and data and deliver the best digital experiences for customers and colleagues alike.

“Digital transformation in financial services is accelerating at a breath-taking rate and the cloud is playing a huge role in making it happen,” said Louise O’Neill, director, banking & financial services, BT. “Backed with decades of experience in managing cloud, security and networking services for leading banks and insurers, and with a full ecosystem of hyperscale partners, this is a compelling proposition from a trusted partner to help firms on their digital transformation journey.”

www.bt.com

[South Africa] Nokia drives MTN Core evolution through cloud and future voice upgrades

Nokia has today announced it has been selected by MTN, a leading emerging markets operator in Africa and the Middle East, to drive its voice core evolution and network modernization in South Africa.

By leveraging Nokia’s 5G cloud infrastructure and cloud-native IMS, MTN South Africa is modernizing and expanding its Voice over Broadband, Voice over WiFi and Voice over LTE (VoLTE), a digital service over its LTE wireless high-speed data network that gives users faster and more reliable connectivity experiences. Nokia IMS and VoLTE lay the foundation for Voice over 5G, a fundamental requirement for the introduction of 5G for mobile phones.

Through this strategic and longstanding partnership between the two companies, MTN is also able to expand this modernization to its networks in other African countries.

“With Nokia cloud-native IMS, MTN has a strong path to 5G. This deployment allows us to provide customers the highest quality and fastest connecitivity, including superior voice connectivity through VoLTE. Nokia is our longstanding partner and has been integral for us to bring the industry’s best services and products to our users and enhance customer experience.” Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer at MTN South Africa, said. 

“We are proud to be delivering MTN South Africa its 5G infrastructure. Communications service providers need to successfully transform themselves into Digital Service Providers that are capable of offering customers fundamentally new user experiences. By adopting a cloud-based network foundation through Nokia, MTN enhances the customer network experience, as well as ensures much-needed flexibility and lower network management costs.” Raghav Sahgal, President of Cloud and Network Services, Nokia, added. 

www.nokia.com

www.mtn.co.za

[Column] Todd Schoeman: Choosing cloud can cut your security risks

It may seem counterintuitive, but organisations can better guard against today’s constant wave of security threats – or at least reduce some of their risk burden – by accelerating their move to the cloud, rather than stalling it. Simply put, using public cloud services shifts some of the responsibility for the underlying infrastructure onto the providers. And all of them are highly motivated to keep on top of security.

Furthermore, public cloud environments attract greater scrutiny from vulnerability-hunters than private ones do, and this bolsters the fight to stay protected. The way your organisation runs patching in the cloud can also make security easier, as some aspects can be shifted to the provider altogether and others can take place without impacting your service availability.

This last point about patching is particularly important. The statistics on the root cause of major incidents that used software vulnerabilities to succeed show that it’s common to see exploits of vulnerabilities that are more than 12-months old. In fact, almost half of the organisations who had a data breach in the last two years said it had occurred because a patch was available but not applied, according to research from Ponemon/IBM.

This tells us that, even though organisations know that patching is important, many are ignoring specific, non-critical risks and instead are choosing to keep their software several releases behind the latest version. There are many understandable reasons for this – such as a lack of capacity for testing, concerns about service interruptions or simply being overwhelmed by the sheer number of patches released by vendors. But moving to the cloud is an opportunity to change this pattern without incurring any of these less desirable results.

When you work in the cloud you can shift the accountability for patching some aspects of your infrastructure to your service providers. Often, they use software-defined mechanisms for patching which don’t interrupt your services. You may not even notice updates happening.

Equally, where you’re using cloud to run software that you’re accountable for, there are ways to keep critical services up to date more easily. You can use the elasticity of cloud to take individual components out of service without impacting availability – if they’re designed correctly.

Patching alone, however, is not enough to protect against attack. It’s common for the attackers to set up alternative access methods in preparation for the next stage in the intrusion to achieve persistence or maintain their foothold. When an organisation is dealing with ‘a hole in the fence’, such as the 2021 Microsoft Exchange Server vulnerabilities, of course patching is important. But that’s not the only thing to do, or even the most important element.

Understanding whether you have been compromised in any way is critical. In general, the large common cloud systems bring two clear positives. First, that such systems are public and accessible to all, and second, that the incentive to fix them if something goes wrong is very high. Often, this makes them safer than personal or organisation-specific cloud systems.

One of the key strengths for the cloud provider’s defending team is the responsible disclosure process, where researchers from the security research community give the vendor advance notice of their findings (typically three months). This gives the vendor time to investigate the issue and issue a fix. Then the researcher can go public with their work.

Secondly, with so many of their customers reliant on shared common systems, the pressure on vendors to fix their systems – either proactively before an attack, or very quickly afterwards – is immense.

To gain real advantage from operating in a cloud-based world, though, organisations need to re-imagine their solutions, building them out of reusable Platform as a Service (PaaS) components or Software as a Service (SaaS) modules. No matter where you are on your journey to the cloud or what your current level of cyber maturity is, it’s important to start by recognising two factors:

  • Securing the cloud is not the same as securing your own infrastructure
  • Traditional security architectures don’t translate well to an edge-based, connect-from-anywhere, cloud-first model.

Additionally, it’s important to understand that not all the risks and responsibilities shift to the cloud provider. For example, you will still need to bring in external tools and services to assess and report on the security of your cloud services, while continuing to keep a clear overview of where and how your data and assets are stored.

We’re as such not advocating a ‘rip and replace’ strategy to hitch your organisation to the latest security technology bandwagon. It’s important to realise that many of your existing security controls will remain effective. Rather, you should focus on the gaps that are a priority for your organisation and leverage a move to the cloud to secure these.

Todd Schoeman is the BT Client Business Director in South Africa.

Raxio Group appoints Master Power to manufacture and install its data centres in Africa

The Raxio Group a premier pan-African data centre developer and operator has appointed Master Power Technologies to build and install its multiple data centres in Africa. Master Power is a leading data centre solutions company, specialising in the supply and installation of pre-engineered data centres in the continent. 

Following its first facility in Uganda, Raxio’s next suite of data centres are being developed in Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique in order to deliver premier colocation services to the region. The infrastructure will help drive growth to the region by supporting the rising consumption of data and the growing digital needs, while reducing the costs associated with digital access for all.

Master Power’s appointment was the result of a highly competitive bidding and evaluation process conducted by Raxio’s technical team and overseen by Raxio’s lead design consultant, Future-tech. Master Power’s scope of work across Raxio’s multiple sites will cover design localisation, supply, install and commissioning of all technical areas. Raxio’s unique and highly innovative design based on “metro-edge” principles is highly scalable and will deliver the lowest power utilization effectiveness ratio (PUE) on the continent through the choice of best-in-class energy efficient power and cooling technology.

The new Raxio data centres will continue to broaden customer access to state-of-art colocation facilities, boosting digital transformation in new markets on the continent, and providing an environment to meet the demands of the population for increased connectivity. The facilities will also be a catalyst for economic growth and job creation, while minimising the impact on the environment through an energy efficient design which does not compromise the reliability of the overall system.

Raxio facilities are designed to cater to a wide spectrum of customers delivering power densities up to 21KW per rack whilst providing the cooling required to optimally run customer equipment.

All the facilities are being designed and developed in compliance with Uptime Institute’s Tier III standard, with no single points of failure, enabling concurrent maintainability. In addition to providing power and cooling redundancy, the data centres will also enable connectivity redundancy through diverse fibre intake and meet-me rooms, all within a highly secure environment.

Founded in 1999, Master Power has built a strong reputation in continuously innovating the data centre industry across the African continent, enabling its customers to focus on their core competences and outsource data space. Since its inception, the company has built industry-leading business cases around commissioning, installing, and providing after-sales services for a comprehensive range of its turnkey backup power and data centre solutions. Master Power is a proudly African company, committed to contributing to build the continent, and has clearly demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the Sub-Saharan Africa data centre industry.

Robert Mullins, CEO of Raxio Group said: “Working with Master Power allows us to accelerate our expansion through a more streamlined and optimized design-to-commissioning process across multiple sites. Master Power’s long-established track-record of successful installations across the African continent and a highly-skilled team, as well as its ability to tailor its solutions to meet the requirements of our unique design were key criteria in our selection process. Together with our own resources and technical partners we are convinced we have a winning combination to deliver these paradigm-shifting facilities to the region. In addition to this, our shared vision to enable digital transformation across Africa, driving economic growth and opportunities for the entire population makes Master Power the ideal choice for us.”

Menno Parsons, CEO of Master Power said: “Digital infrastructure is desperately needed in Africa as connectivity becomes available to more of the population. Working with Raxio to build its next suite of data centres is critical in helping to support the growing demand for colocation services across the region, and we are very pleased to be able to support the rollout of such unique, next-generation facilities. Our experience in the region and Raxio’s commitment to help grow Africa’s digital communities means we will be able to increase the infrastructure available in key regions.”

www.raxiogroup.com

Sapiens International to provide cloud-hosted solutions to South African financial institution

Sapiens International Corporation has announced that one of South Africa’s top five financial institutions with nearly 10 million customers, has selected it as their transformation partner. The financial institution will implement Sapiens’ cloud-hosted, IDITSuite for short-term insurance and Sapiens Intelligence, with the help of Sapiens Managed Services.

Subsequent to successfully launching its fully digital insurance product for individuals to purchase cover for motor vehicle, household contents, all-risk and building cover, the financial institution decided to rethink its legacy core system. To bring the company up to date in terms of capabilities, a refresh was required. However, the financial institution had some concerns regarding data migration and implementation. Particularly, they wanted to ensure a fast time to market, and agreed to work with Sapiens on reviewing and rearchitecting some of their internal processes.

Sapiens’ extensive industry experience, together with its comprehensive range of insurance products for the bancassurance sector, will empower the client to align with the latest, market-leading trends. Sapiens will migrate the customer’s systems and data to the cloud, and Sapiens vast implementation experience will ensure the complex integration into the client’s extensive banking ecosystem. Highly configurable systems will ensure their self-sufficiency and ability to effect change and generate significant ongoing value.

“Sapiens is pleased to foster great partnerships and to demonstrate our strong commitment to accelerating growth in the bancassurance sector. We are honored to be a partner in our customer’s journey as they expand their leading position in today’s dynamic bancassurance marketplace,” said Roni Al-Dor, Sapiens’ president and CEO. “Our advanced solutions and deep understanding of the changes reshaping bancassurance have earned Sapiens a stronghold as a leading vendor in this industry.”

Sapiens IDITSuite is a component-based, core software solution comprised of policy, billing and claims solutions. IDITSuite supports end-to-end core operations and processes for short-term/non-life (general) insurance from inception to renewal and claims. Its pre-integrated, fully digital suite offers customer and agent portals, business intelligence, as well as a suite of tools for testing new lines of business, products and services. IDITSuite is fully cloud-enabled.

www.sapiens.com

[Column] Winston Ritson: Africa finally has its head in the Cloud – but is it private, public or hybrid?

In an age of accelerated digital migration and modernization movements, the Cloud has been touted as a veritable salvation for continued operations and increased efficiency. But is Africa keeping up with this global trend? The answer, you will find, lies somewhere in the middle.

If you look at Africa from an economic development standpoint, you would be quick to assume the continent is not geared up to take advantage of the latest trends in Cloud technology. But you would be wrong. The mere fact that Africa has experienced historical low economic growth is the reason that it is perfectly suited to jump onto the Cloud faster than her peers.

International investors are clamoring to the front of the investment line to fund a boom in the African Cloud Computing market. The proliferation of smartphones, mass adoption of business software and general economic growth prospects have seen a great demand for data centers to be built within continental borders. A young mobile population is driving end-user demand and the potential for the next Cloud boom.

Africa currently accounts for less than 1% of the global public Cloud services revenue (Xalam report) despite accounting for 5% of the world’s GDP and 17% of its population. However, its capacity has doubled in the past three years. But and there is always a but, Africa does lag as one would expect as we are still talking about a Cloud penetration rate of around 15%, but a forecasted public growth rate of between 17 and 20 CAGR (Xalam report – The Rise of the African Cloud)

What is causing the lag?

There are two main culprits for Cloud’s lack of momentum in Africa. First and foremost, piracy is still a big problem on the continent. Many businesses continue to use legacy on-prem versions of software that are pirated. Although this is true all over the world, it is especially true in Africa, where cost occasionally eclipses security or features.

In its June 2018 report, The Software Alliance reported that the overall rate of pirated software across the Middle East and Africa was 56%. Three years down the line, and I can promise you that not much has changed. It is extremely difficult to pursue and prosecute.

On the plus side, from my perspective at Liquid Intelligent Technologies, we are seeing an increasing number of formal African businesses make the move to Cloud with very little resistance and an increase in productivity. Businesses understand the reduced security risk combined with the latest features are worth the monthly subscription.

Secondly, the move to Cloud is not an easy endeavor by any means. We have seen a lot of fragmentation when it comes to business comprehension. There is a tug of war between what they can do with the Cloud versus what they are willing to do. However, leaders of organizations are starting to understand that any strategy must include technological investments.

Unfortunately, with Cloud, there has been an all or nothing mentality. Yet, the rise of data protection and privacy laws is creating lines in the sand regarding the movement of data. Many businesses that were keen to move entirely into the public Cloud are now apprehensive and have adopted a hybrid Cloud model. These developments have somewhat fragmented adoption and created hesitancy.

The rise of hybrid – the end of the road for some, a stepping stone for others

Why is it that in Africa, most new developments are broken down into a public versus private debate? With the Cloud, the two are no different. Typically, Cloud investments exist as a single architectural deployment – ​​​​ie, public or private. Public being the big Cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, and private being an environment that is wholly controlled by a single customer, generally purpose-built for a particular business.

Yet, many have chosen the best of both worlds as a hybrid Cloud solution operates across both. Hybrid Cloud combines a private Cloud with one or more public Cloud services where the business makes use of workloads optimized for the deployment model selected. There are inherent advantages to the public Cloud, including almost infinite scalability and an unbeatable breadth of independent service vendor (ISV) offerings. The private Cloud suits low latency data regulatory requirements and is built for purpose installations. In the end, in these precarious times, hybrid Cloud services are becoming powerful as it gives businesses greater control over their private data.

Is this simply a stepping stone on the road to a full Cloud solution? I would argue, yes. For many businesses, hybrid is a step on the journey to a full Cloud solution. We are still in the development phase for Cloud in the world, let alone Africa. As more infrastructure arises in all corners of the continent and the world, businesses will find the allure of a full Cloud solution may be too tempting to pass up.

But, if you are downsizing and getting rid of corporate offices or storefronts, you then need the flexibility for the end-users to access their data through whatever application, no matter where that user is. There should be no interruption of services, especially if it is financial information like an online banking application. This means that moving all data in one go to the Cloud remains problematic.

Many organizations worldwide are struggling with harnessing the full capabilities of their Cloud environments. An  IBM report  suggests that though 90% of companies globally were “on the Cloud” by 2019, only about 20% of their workloads had moved to a Cloud environment.

The Cost Paradox of Cloud

Having said all this, the paradox of scale means that you are probably going to need your own private Cloud and data centers once you grow big enough. If you are the size of Uber or Netflix, it makes sense to eventually start building your own data centers. In 2019, various sources estimate that AWS charged Netflix US$9.6 million a month for services rendered. That’s a lot of money.

Although you can count on one hand the number of businesses in the world that require that amount of Cloud space. For everyone else, depending on your data restrictions, regulations, and ability to operate efficiently – a hybrid Cloud solution may be the end of the road and work just fine. But don’t think your opinion isn’t going to change as the tech evolves. There is always a better solution on the horizon.

Winston Ritson is the Group Head for Cloud Services at  Liquid Intelligent Technologies.

[Africa Cloud Review] Simon Ngunjiri: Africa is suited to jump to the cloud more than its peers

The speed at which Africa’s business sector has changed over the past year has been nothing short of astonishing. Business leaders have had their hands full, from enabling remote work on a previously unprecedented scale to adapting to disruptions among many other things. At the center of this change is cloud.

Before the pandemic hit, a number of businesses in Africa were at different stages of their cloud strategies, whether that meant moving their email server to the cloud or upgrading to Google cloud or Microsoft 365. This process has been accelerated as many workers were forced to work remotely.

According to a Synergy Research Group survey, which we wrote about in our last cloud review column,  spending on cloud infrastructure bypassed spending on data center hardware and software for the first time in 2020 . This study shows that spending on cloud infrastructure services (PaaS, IaaS, and hosted private cloud combined) grew by 35 per cent to reach almost $130 billion in 2020, while spending on data center hardware and software dropped more than 5 percent to less than $90 billion over the same period.

Cloud adoption—including hybrid and multi-cloud adoption—is expanding fast among both private and public sector organizations of all sizes.

At the enterprise level, consulting firm BCG estimates that two-thirds of companies globally already use multiple clouds. It predicts that by 2025, up to 60 per cent of consumer-facing applications, almost 40 per cent of data warehouse and analytics workloads, and more than 30 per cent of core business applications will be running on public clouds operated by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Traditional on-premises technology will handle no more than a third of these workloads.

In Africa, the continent has been suited to jump to the cloud more than its peers. 

”If you look at Africa from an economic development standpoint, you would be quick to assume the continent is not geared up to take advantage of the latest trends in cloud technology. But you would be wrong. ” Winston Ritsonthe Group Head for Cloud Services at Liquid Intelligent Technologies.   says in an OP ED published last week. 

Winston notes that international investors are clamoring to the front of the investment line to fund a boom in the African Cloud Computing market. 

”The proliferation of smartphones, mass adoption of business software and general economic growth prospects have seen a great demand for data centers to be built within continental borders. A young mobile population is driving end-user demand and the potential for the next Cloud boom,” he says.

In the news

Last week, Liquid Intelligent Technologies creates direct access to USA internet resources via a new POP connection to Miami. The new POP is connected to Liquid’s 100,000km of fiber across 11 countries on the continent and another 14 countries via the Operators Alliance Program and Liquid Satellite Services. This results in customers being able to leverage a better connection to the US, giving them access to Cloud services, OTT resources, Internet content and high-quality voice and video calls with family and business partners.

A South African financial institution also partnered with Sapiens on Cloud-Hosted Bancassurance solutions. The financial institution will implement Sapiens’ cloud-hosted, IDITSuite for short-term insurance and Sapiens Intelligence, with the help of Sapiens Managed Services.

Google Cloud and SAP  announced an expanded strategic partnership to help customers execute business transformations, migrate critical business systems to the cloud and augment existing business systems with Google Cloud capabilities in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at  Incentro Africa.

[Column] Francis Wainaina: How cloud technology could transform manufacturing in Africa

Globally, the manufacturing sector plays a significant role in driving economic growth, job creation, and lifting people out of poverty. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, global manufacturing output has been in decline and Kenyan manufacturers say they are now prioritising cost reduction, increasing revenue, retaining jobs, and improving cash flow. At the same time, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution underway, manufacturers are being pushed to embrace technological development – or risk losing business to more technologically advanced competitors.

Cloud technologies offer manufacturers a solution to this, providing speed, agility, cost savings, and innovation advantages that could accelerate the recovery of the manufacturing sector as well as increase Kenya’s global competitiveness. The African Continental Free Trade Area, Kenya-USA Free Trade Area, Kenya-UK Free Trade Area, and the European Union, under the Economic Partnership Agreements, all present enormous export opportunities for our country, but our manufacturing sector cannot fully capitalise on these global markets without undergoing significant digital transformation.

Kenya’s vision

In 2008, the Kenyan government launched Kenya Vision 2030 with a long-term national development strategy to transform Kenya into a globally competitive industrial hub. Under the Big Four Agenda, the government hopes to increase the manufacturing sector’s contribution to Kenya’s GDP to 15% by 2022. 

The Competitive Industrial Performance Index Report (2020), which benchmarks our ability to produce and export manufactured goods competitively, ranked Kenya 115th out of 152 countries.  While this places us as a leader in East Africa, Kenya’s manufacturing sector still has a long way to go – and the pandemic has not made things easier. In May 2020, a KAM-KPMG survey showed that 53% of manufacturers were operating below 50% capacity during the pandemic. Although manufacturing’s contribution to GDP decreased from 7.8% in 2018 to 7.5% in 2019, the sector also saw an increase from KSh. 690.6 billion to Ksh. 734.6 billion in value added over the same period – largely due to increased output in the manufacturing of transport equipment, chemicals, and chemical products and pharmaceuticals.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers developed the Manufacturing Priority Agenda 2021 to accelerate the recovery of Kenya’s manufacturing sector, with enhanced digitalisation as one of the seven key agendas to “enhance productivity, induce innovation, and enhance resource efficiency”.

The future of manufacturing

In the past, the prevailing winning strategies for manufacturers were large production sites, long product life-cycles, vertical integration, and a heavy investment in costly on-premise systems. But the face of manufacturing has changed, and today’s manufacturers do not only compete by the size and scale of their operations, but also by their speed and agility. For example, many plants today are distributed across the globe and dependent on a constantly fluctuating global supply chain, which necessitates more flexible and data-driven approaches to supply chain management. 

As is the case in most other sectors, the future of manufacturing now belongs to those who can successfully adopt technologies such as machine learning and automation, big data, or IoT. Cloud systems enable these forward-facing technologies, which is why 46% of respondents in Africa’s manufacturing sector, according to a study by World Wide Worx, reported an increased spend on cloud services.

Why manufacturers are using the cloud

Efficient manufacturing is about accomplishing more with fewer resources without compromising on quality. It is also about effectively managing communication between suppliers and distributors, streamlining production schedules through real-time and insight-driven monitoring, and minimising operational costs.

Cloud technologies play directly into all of this, and while some of these capabilities are possible with on-premise systems, cloud-based systems are much faster and more cost-effective to roll out, enable easier customisation and flexibility, allow for scalability, and open the door for innovation. Manufacturers often compete in highly regulated industries where being first-to-market is crucial, and cloud computing is making it possible for them to reduce the time it takes to conduct strategic sourcing, quality audits, supply chain management, optimisation, and more accurate forecasting.

Developing scalable manufacturing intelligence across various plants can be achieved at a much lower cost and with greater accuracy using cloud systems, which can provide real-time insights into production performance using one central dashboard. Cloud-based monitoring systems also allow production processes to be fine-tuned actively and with greater accuracy, making it easier to identify bottlenecks and make configuration changes from any location.

Legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that do not run in the cloud were not designed for complex compliance reporting requirements, which is becoming increasingly important in the manufacturing sector. Cloud computing is making it possible to integrate these legacy systems with the cloud and define entirely new metrics and performance indicators.

Unlocking Africa’s potential

As industries and businesses adapt to working in the digital-first world, digital transformation has become critical to success. Cloud technologies have become a pillar of the modern business world, and the manufacturing sector is certainly no exception. To accelerate the growth of Kenya’s economy through improved manufacturing capabilities, we need to follow international trends and take advantage of all the opportunities that cloud has to offer.

Francis Wainaina is a Senior Product Manager at SEACOM East Africa.

[Africa Cloud Review] Simon Nguniri: Kenya’s Kenya Data Center Market Size by investment is set to Reach $342 Million by 2026

Kenya is witnessing the growing adoption of digital services such as cloud, big data, and IoT driving the demand for data centers in the region.

Kenya’s data center market is set to grow at a CAGR of 12.36% during 2021-2026. This is according to the “Kenya Data Center – Investment Analysis & Growth Opportunities 2021-2026” report released this week.

The report notes that  the data center market in Kenya includes around six unique third-party data center service providers operating around nine facilities. 

Kenya is one of Africa’s primary data center hubs and is considered the gateway to the East African region. Nairobi, the capital city, is a favorable location for data center development. In Kenya, Unaitas Sacco, a financial firm, selected Eastra Solutions for installation and commissioning services to Unaitas Data Center. Atos is investing in the development of a new data center facility in Kenya with around USD 260 million investment at the Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC) in Butere, Kakamega County.

Icolo.io which is among the top data centers investors in Kenya recently announced the construction of its third data center in Kenya to be located in Nyali, Mombasa. Called MBA2, the new data center is expected to be completed in Q1 of 2022 and set to provide an estimated capacity of 1.6MW megawatt and 1,200 square meters of IT space. 

Other key investors include IXAfrica, PAIX, Teraco Data Environments, and Wingu.

Other tech giants like Huawei Huawei Technologies is among the leading vendors in the modular data center space with multiple efficient and reliable deployments. All the vendors the report notes have taken precautionary measures to reduce disruptions in their supply chain operations. The most commonly adopted servers in the industry include rack and blade servers from Cisco Systems, HPE, Dell Technologies, IBM, and Lenovo.

Data centers are being utilized now more than ever according to Carol Koech is the Country President for Schneider Electric East Africa. Data spending is also going up with Gartner estimating that end-user spending on global data center infrastructure is projected to reach US$200 billion in 2021, up 6% from 2020. The landscape in East Africa is no different. In Kenya for example, the country has a total number of 43.7 million Internet/data subscriptions according to the Communication Authority of Kenya; this coupled with the country’s youthful demographics means that data demand will rise rapidly, which will require more data centers. And we can already see investments in this space.

Across Africa, the continent accounts for less than 1% of the world’s co-location data centre supply, with South Africa accounting for the bulk of the continent’s capacity. Co-location facilities rent space, power and cooling to enterprise and hyperscale customers; they also offer interconnection enabling businesses to scale at low complexity and cost.

Nina Triantis, Global Head of Telecoms, Media & Technology at Standard Bank notes that we should expect to see a substantial wave of data centre investments materialise across the continent, led by regional economic powerhouses including South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.  

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at Incentro Africa.