Cloud computing is not just a game-changer for big businesses in developed nations. In Africa, it’s rapidly turning the continent into a place of rich opportunity for bright-eyed entrepreneurs, who are finding they can turn good ideas into market opportunities almost overnight.
The reason for this is simple: even with patchy broadband access and high data costs, the cloud is providing an easy entry point to markets and platforms for entrepreneurs and small businesses across all sectors by reducing the cost and complexity of using technology to grow a business.
Importantly for Africa, the cloud is not only fundamentally changing the way business operates, but is also driving a new wave of job creation opportunities. According to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey, the world needs to create more than half a billion jobs for people joining the global workforce by 2020. By harnessing Africa’s natural entrepreneurial spirit, the cloud could boost small and medium businesses and stimulate job creation.
One of the clearest opportunities being created by the cloud is in the technology space, where 600 million cellphone-using Africans are hungry for apps and services. Here, the cloud is offering African entrepreneurs almost inconceivable opportunities to explore new business models and even conceptualise, create and roll-out ‘home-grown’ feature-rich mobile apps, be it for social, finance, investment or business or even sports. All you need is an idea, and the world is your oyster.
A glaring opportunity for our sports-mad continent is the creation of so-called “killer apps” for avid fans. The African continent has a deep-rooted passion for anything sports-related, be it soccer, rugby, cricket or even basketball. While there are some sports apps available on Android and iOS platforms, many offer limited access to statistics and information – and they rarely extend to local leagues and teams. This is a market that is ripe for the taking.
While the major benefits of cloud computing – on-demand, mobile, socially networked, delivering real-time information – have all combined to effectively level the playing field for smaller businesses, the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs in emerging economies remain funding and mentorship opportunities to allow them to focus on innovation and building their businesses.
That’s why it’s vitally important to create an African ecosystem of Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions that are affordable and specifically tailored for small to medium African business enterprises in the cloud.
This will allow the continent’s small businesses to develop uniquely African apps and access real-time data from almost any source, including relevant business information around emerging trends, sales and stock requirements. We’ve seen many examples of small businesses using technology to get a bold new business idea off the ground, and going on to be successful in global marketplaces.
SAP’s roots, and the bulk of its business, lie in the big business space, but the company is increasingly turning its focus to small businesses and technology innovators. That’s why it’s helping drive the uptake of cloud computing in Africa – and if we can help turn Africa into a Disneyland for entrepreneurs, we’ll be playing a small part in sparking a small business revolution that can literally change the continent forever.