[Africa Cloud Review] Simon Ngunjiri: African Banks Increasingly Embracing Cloud

Financial services in Africa such as banks and insurance firms are beginning to embrace cloud as they seek to modernize their solutions. The bank of 2030, according to Deloitte, will look very different from today. Facing changing consumer expectations, emerging technologies, and alternative business models, banks need to start putting strategies in place now to help them prepare for this future.

Banking and capital markets leaders in the region are increasingly recognizing that cloud is more than a technology; it is a destination for banks and other financial services firms to store data and applications and access advanced software applications via the internet.

Last week, technology leader IBM announced that major financial institutions across Africa have selected its hybrid cloud and AI capabilities to unlock digital innovation. These banks include EcoBank, Nedbank, Attijariwafa Bank, United Bank of Africa, Co-operative Bank of Kenya, and Banco Mais.

The solutions, according to IBM, continue to help these banks continue their work to develop digital-first solutions, ultimately broadening access to financial services on the continent.

Telecommunications and network provider BT also 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.

Cloud allows financial institutions to modernize their operations and truly adopt all aspects of digital transformation. It makes new product and services easier to develop and also allows banks to not heavily invest in dedicated hardware and software with a limited shelf life, nor the manpower to maintain it. Instead, financial institutions can buy into the infrastructure of a secure, dedicated cloud service provider and focus on driving more money into their business.

In 2020, a new report co-authored by Genesis Analytics (the largest economics-based consulting firm in Africa) and Orange Business Services, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, concludes that cloud computing solutions could help African banks to reduce costs significantly and provide financial services to poorer people who are currently either underserved or unbanked. The report highlights the critical role that regulators should play.

Cloud computing, the report noted, creates an opportunity for financial service providers to rethink their technology investment and significantly reduce costs by using Internet technologies to provide virtual infrastructure that is scalable and delivered as a service. ICT infrastructure and service costs are lower and utilization is higher while helping overcome any ICT skills scarcity.

Isme Oosthuizen, the associate director at BCG Platinion in a column published on Africa Business Communities back in August said banks need to pursue their own path to the cloud.

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

‘’Financial services is the exception to the rule. Instead of rushing to the cloud, banks, credit card and payment companies, and insurers are likely to move toward hybrid or multi-cloud models at a measured pace over several years or more, and the pathways of adoption will include banking software vendors as well as large cloud service providers.’ she added.

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at  Incentro Africa.

[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

Introducing Incentro Africa Google Bootcamp: Now available online for free

Incentro and Digicloud have organized a Google bootcamp for both professionals and students. The bootcamp will be run by Google certified engineers and architects from both Kenya and South Africa.

Successful students at the end of the program will sit for an exam and get Google Cloud Certified – attaining one of the most coveted industry recognition, allowing them to validate their expertise and take their careers to the next level. Incentro will also provide the successful candidates with an opportunity to join the team for at the Nairobi office, that will deliver great Google Cloud solutions to the African market.

See program details in the attachments below:

Google Cloud Architect/Security Engineer
Google Collaboration Engineer

This bootcamp is perfect for both undergraduates pursuing an I.T. related degree or diploma or an I.T. professional looking to advance their careers.

Interested?

Sign up by completing these exams and forward the results to googlebootcamp@incentro.com.

Registration closes on 15th September.

See you online! 

For any questions reach out to Matthew Munyiri – matthew.munyiri@incentro.com.

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[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.

Global cloud computing services industry to reach $937.5 billion by 2027, report

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for Cloud Computing Services estimated at $313.1 Billion in the 2020, is projected to reach a revised size of $937.5 Billion by 2027, growing at a Compound annual growth rate, CAGR, of 17% over the analysis period 2020-2027.

Infrastructure as a Service, one of the segments analyzed in the report, is projected to record a 18.4% CAGR and reach US$449.3 Billion by the end of the analysis period. 

After an early analysis of the business implications of the pandemic and its induced economic crisis, growth in the Platform as a Service segment is readjusted to a revised 16.2% CAGR for the next 7-year period.

The Cloud Computing Services market in the U.S. is estimated at US$84.2 Billion in the year 2020. China, the world’s second largest economy, is forecast to reach a projected market size of US$222.5 Billion by the year 2027 trailing a CAGR of 22.1% over the analysis period 2020 to 2027. 

Among the other noteworthy geographic markets are Japan and Canada, each forecast to grow at 12% and 15.1% respectively over the 2020-2027 period. Within Europe, Germany is forecast to grow at approximately 13.4% CAGR.

In the global Software as a Service segment, USA, Canada, Japan, China and Europe will drive the 14.2% CAGR estimated for this segment. These regional markets accounting for a combined market size of US$57.7 Billion in the year 2020 will reach a projected size of US$145.7 Billion by the close of the analysis period.

China will remain among the fastest growing in this cluster of regional markets. Led by countries such as Australia, India, and South Korea, the market in Asia-Pacific is forecast to reach US$145.6 Billion by the year 2027, while Latin America will expand at a 16.8% CAGR through the analysis period.

www.researchandmarkets.com

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

Standard bank selects TCS BaNCS cloud for digital claims transformation in short term insurance

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a global IT services, consulting and business solutions organization, announced that Standard Bank’s short-term insurance business in South Africa has selected TCS BaNCS™ Cloud for Insurance to power its digital claims transformation and reaffirm its leadership in the region.

TCS BaNCS Cloud for Insurance will be offered on a SaaS model on AWS Cloud and will help the insurer harmonize more than 60 products spread across four claims administration platforms, enabling faster and accurate claims processing. The solution will also integrate with 16 different downstream applications including the enterprise GL system, payment gateway, CRM, business intelligence solutions, as well as all other peripheral systems identified in Standard Bank Insurance’s technology roadmap.

Combined with a cloud-first approach, a faster claims processing engine and high configurability, the solution will help Standard Bank Insurance improve operational efficiency and streamline claims management. TCS BaNCS APIs will help Standard Bank Insurance connect to ancillary systems easily and offer personalized experiences to their customers. Additionally, TCS’ analytics and data-driven insights tool will help in decreasing customer churn and speed up decision-making related to claims settlements.

Dr Nolwandle Mqoqi, Head of Insurance, Standard Bank South Africa, said, “Customer satisfaction and loyalty are of utmost importance to us and with TCS BaNCS Cloud for Insurance’s SaaS-based solution, we expect to vastly improve policy holder claims experiences, deliver superior performance in a secure environment and benefit from the scale that a highly configurable solution offers. We have been a leading cloud adopter in the region and selecting TCS BaNCS Cloud as one of the partners is the next step in this journey. Availing TCS’ analytics tool for intelligent insights, we will approach product innovation differently, take advantage of new opportunities and deliver differentiated customer experiences.”
R Vivekanand, Co-Head, TCS Financial Solutions. TCS cherishes the over 20-year relationship with the Standard Bank Group and our long-standing commitment to the South African financial services industry. We are pleased to be selected as the strategic partner to the company for this engagement. TCS BaNCS Cloud for Insurance will help Standard Bank’s short-term insurance enhance customer experience, reduce operational risk, improve claims efficiencies, and take advantage of emerging opportunities by seamlessly collaborating with an extended innovation ecosystem of insurtechs. This claims transformation sets up Standard Bank well for its next leg of thought leadership and client-centered delivery in the South African market.”

TCS BaNCS Cloud for Insurance is an end-to-end rules-driven core insurance platform spanning capabilities in underwriting, customer policy servicing, claim processing, co-insurance, finance, reporting and branch operations across P&C, Health and Life insurance businesses.
This SaaS offering has been adopted by banks and financial institutions of varying sizes across the globe for its future-ready digital architecture, functionality, business agility and operational efficiency.

Its proven application architecture ensures anytime, anywhere digital access, scalability, resilience, high performance, and compliance. Cloud agnostic, it ensures that customers gain from a standardized and consistent platform.

With a predictable and committed roadmap, systematic regulatory updates, and a complete operational model it provides customers with the reassurance to concentrate on their core competencies rather than on building and maintaining costly IT infrastructure. TCS BaNCS Cloud handles over 100 million transactions per month for more than 220 customers across the world.

www.tcs.com

www.standardbank.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