How the biggest international cloud trends impact Africa

The latter half of 2022 was characterised by significant instabilities in the tech industry. E-retailer and cloud giant Amazon announced that it would cut tens of thousands of jobs, social media behemoths Twitter and Meta laid off significant percentages of their workforce, and even Microsoft saw its slowest revenue growth in five years.

“There’s chaos in the industry internationally,” says Andrew Cruise, Managing Director of Routed, a local cloud platform provider and VMware specialist. “The war in Ukraine has kicked off a period of great uncertainty that’s affected global inflation, exchange rates, and general risk appetite. This follows the boom during the early months of the pandemic, when the tech industry saw such growth that many companies made significant investments in new assets, infrastructure, and expertise. Now that growth has slowed, they’re faced with two options: sit tight and wait it out, or shrink. 

When it comes to cloud, specifically, the euphoria around hyperscale cloud (from providers like Amazon, Azure, and more) has also waned, adds Benjamin Coetzer, Director at Routed. “Firstly, enterprises are realising that hyperscale cloud is better suited to development and not everyday business. Secondly, they’re starting to scrutinise their mounting bills, which have grown significantly as their cloud needs have become more complicated and sprawled.” 

Interestingly, things look a bit different in Africa. Hyperscalers like Azure and AWS only started arriving in South Africa in recent years, while Google, Alibaba and BCX just announced their arrival. “It surprised me to see how many hyperscalers decided to set up shop in South Africa almost overnight, as well as how many datacentre companies and IT players have started investing in Africa as a whole,” adds Coetzer.

However, the current economic climate and insufficient infrastructure across the continent warrant some caution: “There is big demand in South Africa, there is big money in South Africa, and there is good infrastructure in South Africa. But when it comes to cloud, I always say the one non-negotiable precondition to move into enterprise cloud (or for enterprise applications to move into the cloud) is fast, reliable, cheap internet. Only fibre sufficiently provides that, and only in South Africa. In Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria fibre penetration is low and it is still extremely expensive at low speeds. No-one else in sub-Saharan Africa has got the precondition for enterprise cloud to be successful. And yet, we’re still seeing demand from people. And I think the demand is misplaced for the moment,” says Cruise.

Worryingly, some hyperscale resellers aren’t giving potential clients the full story – or perhaps they aren’t aware of the conditions on the ground. “They’re delivering the same message in Africa as in the rest of the world, not understanding that Africa can’t deliver on that until local infrastructure improves. South Africa is five years behind the West, and some other countries in Africa are five, if not ten, years behind South Africa. Sure, you can eventually back up your data with an internet connection speed of five megabits per second – but what happens when you need to recover it?”

And then there are the costs to consider. “I think people are going to be surprised by the price increases from AWS, Azure, Google and the like over the next year. Experts in the West are predicting major increases – and that doesn’t even factor in the weak rand.”

Coetzer adds: “Those who don’t need the bells and whistles that developers use and opt for an enterprise cloud will now start seeing significantly more value for their money as that gap increases. Routed’s pricing, for example, has come down in the six years since the company started, while hyperscalers’ prices have kept climbing.

Cruise concludes “I’m hoping that allows people to make better decisions going forward. Many think that IT and cloud is exciting and cutting edge, but what most people really want from the cloud, really need, is for it to be boring. It has to work, all the time, no surprises. And that’s what enterprise cloud does really well. This coming year will bring more of the same, and there isn’t a problem with that.”

www.routed.co.za

[Kenya] iColo expects demand for colocation centres to increase

As internet penetration in Kenya continues to increase, the demand for data centres is also booming. Customers in the country are increasingly using data centres to access public cloud-based services from hosts like Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and others.

Carrier-neutral data centre infrastructure provider iColo expects this demand to go up in the coming years. 

iColo CEO Ranjith Cherickel while speaking during a recent media tour of the firm’s recently opened Mombasa (MBA2) data centre said this increased demand is expected to be in line with the country’s GDP. 

‘’Larger investments are coming from cloud players around the world and they require large resilient systems and this marks a big step in providing colocation’’ he said.

Currently, Africa 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.

In February last year,  a  report from The African Data Centres Association (ADCA) and Xalam Analytic revealed that Africa needs 1000MW and 700 facilities to meet growing demand and bring the rest of the continent onto level terms with the capacity and density of South Africa. 

The reports noted that “At the onset of a new decade, it is increasingly acknowledged that Africa needs a lot more data center capacity than is currently available,”

Ranjith said that we should expect to see a disproportional growth of data centres in countries like Kenya over any other country in the region. 

‘’Colocation in the region will grow well, but in Kenya certainly better’’ he said. 

MBA2 is Icolo’s third data centre providing an estimated capacity of 1.8 megawatts and 1,200 square meters of IT space. 

The new facility can host over 600 customer racks. The location of MBA2 is in close proximity to subsea cable landing points in Mombasa enabling iColo customers to deploy and connect their infrastructure at the new site. The company says this new facility will grow its African footprint and help connect approximately 1 billion people to the internet expanding its services to tap into Africa’s expanding internet economy.

www.icolo.io

[Kenya] Twiga Foods Taps Google Cloud to Improve Food Security and Reduce Waste Production

Twiga Foods has partnered with Google to leverage Google Cloud technologies in increasing accessibility and easier distribution of farm produce.

Through this partnership, Twiga Foods will leverage Google Cloud technologies in running an efficient food value chain that connects farmers directly with vendors to bring high-quality, locally harvested fresh produce to people every day—increasing accessibility to food items in Kenya. The collaboration will also allow for more accurate ordering of food items, which will lead to the reduction of waste of perishable goods during the distribution process.

Twiga Foods decided to establish its core IT infrastructure on Google Cloud when its customer base began growing exponentially in 2015, and the need to scale operations digitally became more critical. Twiga first began to store all of its business and operational data securely on Google Cloud using the Big Query data warehousing product. This, in turn, led to the transformation from a manually driven company to a technology-enabled business that relies on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools—applied on top of the data warehouse—to make smart business decisions in real time.

Today, approximately 1,000 farmers in Kenya benefit from Twiga’s dynamic pricing capability, ensuring they are paid fairly for their products. The capability is powered by Big Query and Data Studio, Google Cloud’s data analytics solutions, and factors in local dynamics that impact pricing. This functionality enables Twiga to make the correct decision on the price it gives to each of its customers.

The digital transformation of Twiga Foods on Google Cloud also empowers the 140,000 vendors who rely on the company to receive fresh produce for their shops every day. Today, vendors can purchase products on credit based on their credit score. Twiga relies on the analysis of vendor data on Big Query, which leverages insights such as vendor metrics and modes-of-ordering to create a credit score for each customer.

With the help of Google Cloud technologies, Twiga Foods also introduced waste minimization efforts in its value chain for perishable goods. Through analyzing historical data of product purchases and quantities on Big Query and Data Studio, Twiga Foods determines the types and quantities of produce that need to be purchased for each day of the week based on demand and creates a weekly plan accordingly. The ability to plan one week in advance ensures that products are not wasted due to ripening and during distribution.

Niral Patel, Director, of Google Cloud Africa said “The work we are doing with Twiga Foods is not just about an e-commerce platform choosing a cloud provider to run its systems and store data. It also is about showing how technology and the power of AI and machine learning can help a nation address sustainability challenges head on such as waste reduction and food security. Twiga Foods is a pioneering company that is looking at some of the most pressing issues we have in Africa and bringing in technology to come up with viable, long-term sustainable solutions that can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Caine Wanjau, Chief Technology Officer, Twiga Foods said Today, Twiga foods enables households in Kenya to have access to higher quality fresh produce that is farmed locally at affordable prices. Shop owners can now dedicate their time to growing their business and spending time with their families, rather than spend hours every day procuring and stocking up products. Farmers get a fair chance at earning decent incomes and being paid adequately for their products. This is all being enabled by bringing in technology to help us look at our business and customers in a profound manner, relying on data in real-time to make the best and smartest decisions for our people and the country.”

In addition to using data and AI/ML to price products and assign credit scores, Twiga Foods also established its warehouse management system on Google Cloud that enables the automation of all the logistical processes and optimization of space at its 20,000-square-meter warehouse that manages an average of 2,000 tons of produce daily. The end-to-end process—when an order is placed to when it is dispatched—is now automated with Google Cloud.

The team at Twiga Foods was also able to reduce 40% of the cost of deliveries with the help of Google Cloud’s route optimization tools. The company’s fleet routing algorithm for deliveries is built on Google Cloud and provides dynamic routing capabilities that schedule an average of 12,000 deliveries based on prioritization and proximity daily. This has also meant that all vendors across 12 cities in Kenya receive their orders before 1 p.m. every day.  

twiga.com

cloud.google.com

[Column] Richard Muthua: Kenya and Africa are ready to join the future of Cloud

It is sometimes too easy for the world to wrongfully assume that Africa lags too far behind the global cloud innovation revolution happening. That is a fundamentally flawed outlook. 

As of 2021, our continent accounted only for USD 1.2 billion of the global public cloud market, it has more than doubled in the past three years and continues to grow exponentially year on year. Soon, Africa will be among the world’s leading cloud innovators, and countries like Kenya will be at the forefront. 

It has been inspiring to witness first-hand the continued growth of Kenya’s tech sector. Ongoing expansion and improvement of data infrastructure are playing a critical role in pushing national economic growth beyond expectations. 

As of March 2022, total data and internet subscriptions in Kenya surpassed 46 million, according to a recent Communications Authority of Kenya report. This equates to 93.9 per cent of the Kenyan population compared to 31.4 per cent that were connected in 2013. The pandemic only intensified this growth as many businesses adopted remote working methods – calling for more adept cloud adoption strategies.    

In addition to cloud, the digital revolution also led to the creation of new skills in the fields of artificial intelligence, big data and mobile robotics. 

It would not be surprising to see 2022 become the year many African industries experience a massive surge in cloud solutions. This is already driven by the impetus of digital transformation strategies across the board and a need to gain a competitive advantage in a new normal. 

The reality of Africa’s historical low economic growth is the very reason that the continent is ideally suited for the speedy adoption of cloud technology. As Kenya, and the rest of Africa, look towards economic recovery and growth, cloud is the answer to cutting costs and increasing efficiencies as businesses move away from the requirement of hardware and installation. 

But this doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen alone. 

Liquid’s cloud ambition lies in partnerships

At Liquid Intelligent Technologies (Liquid), we have proudly built Africa’s largest independently owned fibre network. While that is a fantastic achievement, our ambition also lies in the cloud. We are part of a mission to build Africa’s largest-ever data centre in Lagos, Nigeria, which is being spearheaded by Africa Data Centres, another organisation under the Cassava Technologies House of Brands. This development will spur cloud innovation that has never been seen before on African soil. However, this will require some key players.  

As Liquid continues to make headway with the East-West fibre lines across the continent, especially through areas like the Congo, more interest will be generated from these multinational tech giants – adding to the exponential growth curve.

Cloud is the best cybersecurity on the market

One of the biggest deterrents of cloud adoption lies in the belief that a migration to the cloud will lead to more cyber-attacks. While this could be true, it is also true that the advancement and rising complexity of the average cybercriminal syndicate means that businesses need to invest more in protecting their cyber assets. With cloud, the benefit of economies of scale and availability of skill within a cloud service provider environment makes it easier to secure your cyber assets with the most up-to-date technologies at par with the threats. This could otherwise be too expensive and technically unachievable for an organisation using the on-premises option.

This will need accredited and capable partners to bring this to life. Liquid’s offering is designed to protect customers at every intersection of their digitally transformed business including network, people, and systems, revolutionising how cyber security is approached.  Our approach provides small and large business owners, enterprises, and government entities with secure cloud services that help them get an edge of their competitors on the continent and beyond. 

Cloud is the pathway to start-up success 

The last two years have emphasised the need to leverage digital channels to deliver on value propositions. Cloud allows businesses, especially those who are young and ready to grow, a pathway that is ready to scale at a moment’s notice. 

Since latency is such a widespread issue in Africa, serving a customer as quickly as possible is the key to competitive advantage, which is life or death in a start-up landscape. Nobody wants to see loading screens and unnecessary buffers when trying to access mission-critical systems. As soon as the customer experience is interrupted, the customer is already thinking of the competitor. 

However, none of this would be possible without a key player in the market who understands the need for resilient and scalable infrastructure—those being infrastructure providers like Liquid. 

For example, in May 2022, Liquid partnered with PEACE Cable Company to introduce 800Gbps of additional subsea capacity in Mombasa on the highly-anticipated global submarine cable. This will increase the availability of high-performance and reliable Internet connectivity access across Africa, leveraging Liquid’s 100,000km of terrestrial fibre across 12 countries.

The continent needs more proud enablers of cloud success. Through the right partnerships, programmes and events, we can continue to provide a platform for businesses and entrepreneurs alike to succeed in a digital economy and do so through the cloud – one of the most significant enablers of the fourth industrial revolution. 

Richard Muthua is the Executive Head, Cloud and Cyber Security at Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Kenya

Amazon to launch a new AWS Local Zone cloud infrastructure in Kenya

Amazon Web Services has announced plans to launch an AWS Local Zone in Kenya.  AWS, an Amazon.com, Inc. company made this announcement at the ongoing Connected Summit 2022 in Diani, Kwale County.

The new AWS Local Zone(s) in Kenya will join 16 existing AWS Local Zones across the United States and an additional 32 AWS Local Zones planned to launch in 26 countries around the world starting in 2022. AWS Local Zones deliver single-digit millisecond latency performance at the edge of the cloud to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

“The new AWS Local Zone in Kenya is a continuation of our investment to support customers of all kinds and our commitment to accelerate innovation by bringing cloud infrastructure to more locations in the country. We know that delivering ultra-low latency applications for a seamless user experience matters in every business and industry, so we are excited to bring the edge of the cloud closer to more customers in Kenya to help meet their requirements. ” Robin Njiru, Regional Lead, East, West and Central Africa at AWS said.

Njiru says AWS Local Zones will empower more public and private organizations, innovative startups, and AWS partners to deliver a new generation of leading edge, low-latency applications to end users. 

Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Mr Joseph Mucheru said the announcement reaffirms our Kenya’s position as an attractive place to invest, powered by a high volume of local talented developers. ”It will boost the adoption of advanced cloud-based technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Internet of Things while helping to ensure secure use across the Kenyan technology sector.” he said.

AWS manages and supports Local Zones, meaning customers in Kenya do not need to incur the expense and effort of procuring, operating, and maintaining infrastructure in Nairobi to support low-latency applications. AWS Local Zones also allow customers with local data residency requirements in Kenya to run parts of their applications in on-premises data centers and seamlessly connect to AWS while ensuring ultra-low latency for these types of hybrid deployments—all while using familiar AWS APIs and tools.

The new AWS Local Zones will give customers in Kenya the ability to offer end users single-digit millisecond performance designed to suit applications such as remote real-time gaming, media and entertainment content creation, live video streaming, engineering simulations, augmented and virtual reality, machine learning inference at the edge, and more.

Customers can connect to AWS Local Zones through an internet connection or use AWS Direct Connect—a cloud service that links an organization’s network directly to AWS to deliver consistent, secure, low-latency performance—to route traffic over a private AWS network connection.

AWS Local Zones are a type of infrastructure deployment that places AWS compute, storage, database, and other services at the edge of the cloud near large population, industry, and information technology (IT) centers—enabling customers to deploy applications that require single-digit millisecond latency closer to end users or on-premises data centers. AWS Local Zones allow customers to use core AWS services locally while seamlessly connecting to the rest of their workloads running in AWS Regions with the same elasticity, pay-as-you-go model, application programming interfaces (APIs), and toolsets.

The announcement comes more than two years after Kenya’s leading telco Safaricom announced a partnership with Amazon to resell AWS services in Kenya and throughout East Africa.

On top of reselling AWS services, the telco also was also included as an Advanced Consulting Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN), a partner program for technology and consulting businesses that leverage AWS “to build solutions and services for customers.

Peter Ndegwa, CEO of Safaricom PLC said the new AWS Local Zone will enable Safaricom to further enhance its cloud offerings, especially to its Enterprise and SME customers, and migrate more of its own services to the Cloud.  ”Customer obsession remains a key focus for Safaricom and with this local presence driven by our partnership with Amazon, we will now achieve increased speed, stability, reliability, and storage to support innovation and development of future-fit solutions,” Peter added.

aws.amazon.com

[Kenya] Zalego Academy Joins the Amazon Web Services Training Partner Program

Zalego Academy, a subsidiary of StepWise Inc. that focuses on ICT training and enhancing the employability of youth and people from underserved communities has joined the Amazon Web Service Training partner program. 

Zalego Academy will now work with AWS to deliver training and certification for cloud skills to learners in Kenya and will concentrate on social impact initiatives. This training will not only enable cloud fluency for unemployed youth and graduates to leverage the power of cloud but will also create a new pathway of economic opportunity for young people to partake in cloud computing jobs. 

This Training Partner Program is designed for organizations like Zalego Academy, that meet or exceed rigorous criteria for delivering and or offering high-quality technical training.  

“Organizations need individuals with cloud skills to help transform their business, and there is a growing demand for IT professionals with cloud skills. AWS Training and Certification, along with our Training Partners like Zalego Academy, aims to equip the builders of today and tomorrow with the knowledge they need to leverage the power of cloud. AWS Training, designed by experts, teaches in-demand cloud skills and best practices, helping learners prepare for AWS Certification exams so they can advance their careers and transform their organizations,” said Maureen Lonergan Vice President, AWS Training and Certification.

“We strongly believe that with the support of AWS, Zalego Academy can build innovative programs that have a lasting impact, particularly to the underserved and underrepresented in Africa,” said Chris Harrison, CEO StepWise.  “Delivering AWS Training and Certification is perfectly aligned with StepWise’s purpose of preparing an inclusive talent pipeline and creating sustainable employment for a technology-driven world.”

As a Training Partner, Zalego Academy plans to deliver authorized AWS Training and work with partner organizations to develop future-focused strategies, to enhance the employability of youth and people from underserved communities. It will also deliver trainings intentionally built for non-traditional learners of all abilities to engage in, (i.e., in-person, sign language interpreters, video captioning and wheelchair accessible space).

The training is developed and maintained by cloud experts, ensuring the content reflects current best practices. AWS Classroom Training gives learners the opportunity to engage live and get questions answered by an expert instructor. Many courses also include hands-on labs, allowing learners to practice real-world scenarios in a sandbox environment. Training also helps prepare learners for the cloud service provider’s certification exams, which validate technical skills and expertise with an industry-recognized credential.

“AWS Courses will not only enable the underserved communities in tech to acquire the skills needed to earn a living-wage job upon graduation, but will also enable them to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families,” said Peres Were-Ogaga, Executive Director, StepWise Foundation.

StepWise is focused particularly on enhancing economic inclusion in Africa through the creation of digital jobs for people from disadvantaged communities, women, the chronically unemployed, and individuals with disabilities. Through the Foundation’s Scholarship Program, Zalego Academy provides individuals with disabilities and underserved youth in East Africa, with career-ready technology skills through programs that are aligned with the current and future job market. These demands are driven by advancements in technology.

[Column] Tejpal Bedi: Kenya’s data centres – Essential infrastructure for expanding our digital economy

Although most of us don’t usually spend much time thinking about data centres, they play a fundamental role in the origin, delivery, and maintenance of Internet services and networks. And our need for them is growing as more people use the Internet to join the digital economy. Global traffic surged by more than 40% in 2020 as a result of increased video streaming, teleconferencing, online gaming, and social networking. The number of global Internet users has doubled since 2010, and with that increase comes the need for data centres that can not only cater for current requirements, but also for future loads that require even more complex computing capabilities.

In an African context, countries such as Kenya and Uganda have seen increased investment and interest from multinational operators. We see this with data centre operator Raxio launching its first carrier-neutral centre in Kampala in 2021. Other examples include PAIX building a data centre in Nairobi’s financial district, and Asteroid International expanding its Kenyan Internet exchange service from Mombasa to Nairobi. Combined with the increasing investment from hyperscalers such as AWS, Google, and Meta, the end result of this is more value for end users and enterprises in the East African region, with better speeds, better pricing, and a blossoming digital economy.

In Kenya, more data centres, and their surrounding technology infrastructure, could change how people and businesses engage with global networks and systems. To do that, it’s important to know what that infrastructure looks like, and what it is capable of. 

Inside a data centre

What do you see when you imagine a data centre? Perhaps a giant warehouse filled with endless corridors of blinking server towers, storing data or serving as a junction point through which data passes on its journey from A to B. However, today’s data centres are more complex. They are designed to support multiple on-site and cloud activities, especially when it comes to business IT. A data centre can support email and file sharing customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and databases, virtual desktops and communication services, as well as evolving applications in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Centres are comprised of servers, routers, switches, firewalls, and service delivery controllers, all vital components that work together to deliver comprehensive functionality.

While there are various kinds of centres that cater to specific services, colocation centres and carrier-neutral facilities are two of the most common; both of which serve important purposes for all kinds of enterprises. Simply put, colocation centres offer a space, both physical and virtual, for companies to store and manage their servers and other infrastructure, while carrier-neutral centres are independent entities offering various connection options to customers, including direct connections and cloud services.

The impact of Kenya’s data centres

Considered the gateway to the East Africa region, Kenya plays an important geographical and logistical role in the rollout of Internet connectivity and services on the continent. Our country enjoys the presence of several local facility operators that have grown and expanded in part thanks to acquisitions or partnerships with global operators, while also offering end-to-end solutions for companies of all sizes. Investments in broadband undersea cables and landing stations enable accessibility, connecting the continent to global cloud networks and serving as the bedrock on which Kenya can embrace cutting-edge digital solutions. 

According to the Kenya Data Centre Investment Analysis Report, our data centre market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.36% between 2021 and 2026. Kenya serves as of one the continent’s primary data centre hubs. Nairobi is a favourable location for data centre development, with Mombasa becoming more popular with service providers as well. Data centres enable the growing adoption of big data and Internet of Things (IoT) services, while the demand for original design manufacturer (ODM) servers among operators also fuels growth in server infrastructure. These factors contribute to Kenya’s position not only as a continental leader, but also as an opportunity hotbed for technology sectors. 

Innovation, energy, and the future

Despite this potential, Africa’s hosting capacity remains minimal. The continent’s capacity is only a fraction of some of the world’s largest data centre metros, such as London or Amsterdam. However, new facility construction has accelerated as markets consider hosting and cloud service opportunities. Reliable data centre infrastructure, as offered and maintained by reputable service providers, mean users in Nairobi can utilise AI, blockchain and other digital resources with the same level of security and ease as other users in the overseas metros.

This infrastructure, and its energy requirements, also raises environmental considerations that are being addressed. Growing demand for data centres continues to be mostly offset by ongoing efficiency improvements in servers, switches, and other infrastructure. Combined with mobile networks switching from 2G and 3G technologies to more efficient 4G and 5G ones, data centres are becoming increasingly energy efficient.

From fledgling start-ups to large corporates, we can’t underestimate the importance of data centres when it comes to delivering Internet solutions and unlocking digital opportunities. With data centres offering so much to the Kenyan economy and individual businesses, it’s a good time for companies to prioritise finding reliable ICT partners and service providers of data hosting facilities.

Tejpal Bedi is the SEACOM Managing Director and Regional Head of Sales for the ENEA region.

[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.

[Kenya] AAR Insurance partners with Safaricom to migrate to the cloud

AAR Insurance has inked a deal with telecommunications provider Safaricom to roll out new technology infrastructure based on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) as part of its goal to be a full digital insurance company.

The medical underwriter has begun migrating its digital tools and core systems to the AWS platform in a move that will offer clients more secure and efficient digital services.

The AWS cloud computing service will also help interface AAR Insurance digital channels – Mobile Apps, USSD services, web portals and chatbots – with the company’s core insurance technology systems thus enhancing operational efficiency while reducing costs and service downtime.

AAR Insurance Kenya Managing Director, Nixon Shigoli, says migrating all the core insurance platforms and business Applications to AWS will help the company achieve its strategic goals on digital transformation including moving all client interactions to mobile.

“AWS offers services that are affordable and flexible to grow with us as our business evolves. Besides providing enhanced and robust security features to support our business data infrastructure, AWS is reliable and customizable to our unique environment,” said Mr. Shigoli.

He added that Cloud infrastructure is critical to AAR operations as it will enable rapid deployment of Applications and is easy to adjust as needs and resource demands change.

“Moving our information assets, core systems and digital tools to the Cloud presents attractive opportunities for the realization of our goal of being a full digital insurance provider, by creating an environment for customers to enjoy end-to-end services through their phones and digital devices,” he added.

The AWS Cloud service uses the pay-as-you-go model meaning AAR Insurance will no longer have to deploy expensive hardware infrastructure on premise.

On his part, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa says the AWS Cloud infrastructure offers businesses, including insurance firms, a highly scalable and secure experience to grow and support digital channels.

“AAR Insurance Kenya becomes the first insurance company locally for whom we are implementing the AWS Cloud platform. We are delighted to be part of the digital transformation at AAR and overall growth of digital insurance in Kenya,” said Mr. Ndegwa.

He pointed out that an increasingly digital consumer ecosystem requires robust technology infrastructure to support web Applications among other critical tools underpinning a superior customer experience.

“Cloud is the new normal and most businesses today have either already moved their operations into the cloud or are in the process of migrating,” explained the Safaricom boss.

So far, AAR Insurance has rolled out a number of digital platforms through which clients can enroll and pay for medical, travel and personal accident insurance, manage and track treatment expenses, using phones and other devices. They can also interact real-time with AAR Insurance through WhatsApp.

www.aar-insurance.com

www.safaricom.co.ke

[Kenya] FirstWave announces level one partner agreement with Moja Access

Global, cybersecurity-as-a-service company, FirstWave Cloud Technology Limited  has announced the signing of a three-year Level 1 Partner Agreement with Moja Access, part of CSquared Group, a pan-African technology company.

The First revenues to flow immediately under ‘oppt-out’ path to market.

Moja Access is the Kenya-based operating company of CSquared, a panAfrican operator of wholesale and open-access fibre and WiFi infrastructure in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Liberia. 

 CSquared currently operates fibre and last mile WiFi networks in these cities, with over 40 mobile operators and internet service providers relying on its infrastructure for serving mobile consumers and corporate customers.

These four African nations had over 10 million Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and over 70 million internet users at the end of 2020. In the initial phase of this partnership, FirstWave has deployed its recently launched FirstCloud™ WebProtect DNS platform for each of CSquared’s four territories for use by CSquared’s operating companies and Level 2 partners.

CSquared’s operating companies’ partners and their end-customers will get the web security solution as part of their internet service on an “opt-out” basis. As a consequence, revenue generation will commence immediately, and end-customers can ‘opt-out’ if, for any reason, they decide they do not want the service.

Moja Access is currently in conversations with customers for uptake of this service. The Partnership Agreement is for a 3-year term with rolling 6-month extension options thereafter and in keeping with FirstWave’s service proposition – democratising enterprise-grade cybersecurity-as-a service – the vast number of MSMEs and Internet users across these 4 African nations can now be protected on CSquared’s network from cyber intruders, on a consumption basis, at an affordable monthly price.

Lanre Kolade, Group CEO of CSquared, said, “We are very excited to have signed this partnership with FirstWave. Our clients, including Telcos and Internet Service Providers, will benefit from FirstWave’s differentiated SaaS products. It will allow us to rapidly deploy and sell on a consumption based monthly pricing model, enterprise grade cybersecurity services to all our clients and their end-customers, large and small.”

FirstWave’s CEO, Neil Pollock explained, “I’m delighted to welcome CSquared Group’s Moja Access as our 8 th Level 1 partner and see initial revenues already flowing from the partnership. CSquared is a fast-growing panAfrican service provider backed by two large global corporations Google LLC and Mitsui & Co. CSquared already delivers robust fibre connectivity and internet access to thousands of end-customers via its 40+ mobile operator and ISP clients. With revenues already delivered, the partnership has had a really positive start.” This announcement has been approved for release by the Board of Directors.

www.firstwavecloud.com

www.csquared.com