How cloud software can help African SME businesses grow and expand

The automotive market in Africa is growing fast, with more than 3 million new vehicles being sold each year on the continent, and tens of millions of used and imported vehicles yearly.

The new vehicle sale market will grow as fast as in some European countries, with for example Nigeria to have more than 8 million new vehicle sales per year in 2035. Currently, imported and used cars businesses are growing fast on the continent, across all nations.

There are four types of car sellers that Africar Group, the number one online automotive marketplaces in Sub Saharan Africa, covering 40 countries, have identified, being – the individual seller (any individual selling his old car to buy another one), the briefcase seller (selling from 1 to 10 cars a month, that they don’t own and taking a commission fee), the broker or agent (selling several cars a month, cars that they have purchased and selling at a higher price) and the professional car dealer (selling tens of cars per month, with their own physical location).

Africar Group has been working with those different types of sellers for the last years and have identified their biggest challenge, managing their business at scale and automating it.

All of these sellers, and specially the professional ones, that are sometimes handling tens of millions of dollars of revenues yearly, are managing their businesses with spreadsheets, paper forms, notebooks and extensive contact list. Africar Group is now starting to offer them a software as a service CRM solution to maximise their sales opportunities, being the first professional tool for car dealers in early stage emerging markets like Africa.

The CRM SaaS system articulates around some main features like lead management, lead generation, personalised sales dashboard, inventory management and marketing campaign management, combining it with the strength of its online automotive marketplaces, generating tens of thousands of leads monthly in Sub Saharan Africa.

Car dealers can now easily manage their leads, sort them, list them, contact them for new sales opportunities, reach them by different channels at scale like SMS, emails, messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber or WeChat, but also managing its own vendors schedules, calendars, follow up and appointments, and extracting data and metrics out of it, which is almost impossible manually. Vendors from the same dealers can then share their calendars, leads details and notes on the go thanks to the cloud, with live updates of the data.

Africar Group is the leading operator of automotive online marketplaces in Sub Saharan Africa, covering 40 countries for more than 900 million people, backed by Emerging Classifieds Ventures, an Australian company supporting marketplaces in emerging markets around the world, and backed by renowned international investors. Africar Group has raised several 6 digits undisclosed amounts since its inception in 2016.

www.africargroup.com

[Rwanda] Liquid Telecom supports startups with cloud based services

Pan-African telecoms group Liquid Telecom is supporting young entrepreneurs at the Westerwelle Startup Haus Kigali through its high-speed internet and cloud-based services.

Soft-launched in early August, the Westerwelle Startup Haus is a hub for entrepreneurs, which offers a range of services such as events, advisory services and professional development workshops.

Run by Westerwelle Foundation in partnership with Evonik Foundation, it also includes a makerspace providing machines such as 3D printers and a laser cutter among others.

The hub has a capacity to serve 200 people, who will be able to enjoy access to Microsoft Azure developer tools provided by Liquid Telecom via its leading-edge fibre network.

Liquid Telecom will support Westerwelle Startup Haus through the provision of high-speed internet, helping it to become a major driver of innovation and further positioning Kigali as a tech hub in the region.

Through its Innovation Partnership initiative, Liquid Telecom is taking a leadership position in driving tech-based innovation in Rwanda, and earlier this year also entered into a partnership with Impact Hub Kigali.

Liquid Telecom’s range of digital skills development programmes, which focus on areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, data science and game development, will help Rwanda prepare for the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“We’re excited to be supporting the Westerwelle Foundation with its new venture in Rwanda. The opening of the Westerwelle Startup Haus Kigali will help nurture more young entrepreneurs that are laying the foundations for the country’s digital future,” said Oswald Jumira, Head of Innovation Partnerships at Liquid Telecom.

Liquid Telecom and the Westerwelle Startup Haus Kigali will also explore ways to attract more leading events and startup competitions to the Rwandan capital. In July, the Westerwelle Startup Haus hosted Seedstars Kigali, part of a major startup competition held in over 20 different African countries.

Entries included an artificial intelligence (AI) enabled device that helps the blind see and a talent match-making platform.

The hub is run by the Westerwelle Foundation, a German non-profit organisation which aims to promote entrepreneurship and collaboration among innovators in emerging markets, in partnership with Evonik Foundation. Run by Evonik Industries, one of the world’s leading specialty chemicals companies, Evonik Foundation promotes education and science.

“Kigali is rapidly establishing a bright and innovative start-up sector. With Liquid Telecom’s support, we will be able to foster the entrepreneurial spirit of Rwanda’s youth and make a meaningful contribution to the country’s digital economy, overall economic growth and job creation,” said Michael Mronz, Chairman of the Board at Westerwelle Foundation.

www.liquidtelecom.com

www.westerwelle.haus

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[Column] Adebayo Sanni: Nigerian businesses can be secure in the cloud

High-profile breaches have propelled security to the top of the agenda at many organisations, as the combination of faster, more-damaging attacks, increasingly complex technology environments, and demanding regulatory requirements continue to create new security challenges.

Deloitte’s 2018 Nigeria Cybersecurity Outlook highlights a rise in several cyber Ponzi schemes during 2017 as well as evolving ransomware attacks. Ponzi schemes promise incredible financial returns on investment while the Wannacry ransomware attack affected more than 150 countries, including Nigeria.

Today’s attacks are wide and varied, and range from targeting infrastructure and databases to applications and users. This means that to protect vital information assets, companies need controls at multiple levels across their entire environment – both in the cloud and on-premise.

Turning to the cloud

Moving to the cloud is still deemed to be risky by some IT leaders, but the reality is that the bigger risk is not moving to the cloud. The cloud is rapidly proving itself as easier to manage, maintain and secure than traditional IT environments.

In particular, cloud services are vastly more secure than many on-premise alternatives, spurred on by leading cloud vendors such as Oracle creating highly robust security infrastructure that is continually patched and kept up-to-date. This level of investment in security can never be matched in an on-premise environment.

The key is to choose the right cloud technology – one that is designed to protect users, enhance safeguarding of data, and better address requirements under privacy laws.

Autonomous services

That said, industry estimates put nearly half of all security breaches down to human error, and educating employees on how to spot suspicious emails is crucial. The hackers only need to be successful once to break in, but businesses need to be successful all of the time in order to prevent a data breach. The only way to do this and keep data safe is through defense in depth — with multiple controls, security on by default, automation, best practices, and a secure infrastructure.

Ensuring that a full range of effective controls is in place can be challenging. An autonomous cloud platform addresses this challenge as it starts with built-in self-securing features.

A number of recent large-scale security breaches occurred when companies failed to apply a patch that was available for their software. Autonomous services apply patches without a person having to schedule them, requiring no system downtime. In addition, through the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities such as real-time auto cyberthreat detection and remediation, and user behavior analytics, security risks are lowered. Improved security is among the most critical advantages of an autonomous cloud platform.

Shared responsibility

There is a marked shift in the security landscape and in customers’ needs. Not only do cloud vendors need to protect their own cloud, but customers are looking for modern techniques to help them provide consistent security controls across cloud and on-premise environments.

Security is a shared responsibility, although functions such as encryption and patching are automated, organisations are still responsible for business-specific security functions such as securing users and ensuring sensitive data is appropriately protected. Companies should have a clear understanding of the security responsibility they share with their cloud providers, including having a comprehensive service level agreement in place.

In addition, all businesses need to focus more efforts on training end-users as they’re the most vulnerable point of attack. Some of the most successful attacks leverage social engineering, including those luring unsuspected people to invest in fake cryptocurrencies and specifically in Nigeria, those conducted via emails, SMS and phone calls.

In response to the increased threat landscape, more and more organisations are transitioning their information systems to the cloud to achieve better security for sensitive data and critical business processes. Security used to be an inhibitor to moving to the cloud, now it’s an enabler to get businesses where they need to go.

Adebayo Sanni is Managing Director of Oracle Nigeria.