By Andrew Sordam
Africa is a continent pulsating with energy and this carries over from its beautiful cultures to business and innovation. Digitalisation is permeating every industry, with cloud computing rapidly becoming an essential component of business transformation.
Powered by the energy so infused on the continent, there is a focus on consolidation and a persistence as organisations drive digital transformation forward and improve the quality of ICT services. The speed of development in each region of sub-Saharan Africa is astounding.
Oracle has been present in Africa for the last thirty years and has been investing heavily in the continent from the very beginning. We believe in investing in the human capital of the countries where we do business in order to address the growing ICT skills gap.
This places Oracle in an exciting position. We are able to contribute meaningfully towards the roadmaps of innovation and transformation. Organisations across the continent are embarking on innovative digital transformation initiatives which is incredibly exciting, being able to participate in projects that are driving the continent forward in ways we can only imagine.
ICT is a large contributor to African society, with mobile connectivity enabling many enterprises to reach their customers like never before. Mobile and digital capabilities have given companies across the board new tactical strategies, such as fintechs using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to get a leg-up on traditional banks.
Companies in Africa can emerge from a situation where they have had more rudimentary applications and business processes to where they have unleashed the power of cloud technologies which makes it easier and far more efficient to automate services.
According to the IDC, overall spending on ICT in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) is set to grow 2.5% year on year in 2019 to reach $213 billion. Group vice president and regional managing director for the META region, Jyoti Lalchandani, adds that progressively more organisations experiment with emerging technologies such as AI and the Internet of Things to drive innovation and improve their customer experience. He says that the most important task facing the region’s decision makers is the development of an effective digital transformation platform that can sustain and scale business operations.
CEOs and CIOs on the continent have the cloud at the centre of their digital transformation strategies, knowing full well that without automation they will either be out of business, or be steering an organisation with flawed reporting. The ability to harvest, store and sort big data is a critical element of business competitiveness.
Business leaders are seeing first-hand how the cloud is an enabler for innovation. Although we are progressively seeing an increase in movement to the cloud, a smart bet would be on many organisations going the route of cloud at customer. Oracle Cloud at Customer is designed to enable organisations to remove one of the biggest obstacles to cloud adoption—data privacy concerns related to where the data is stored.
In our experience, while organisations are eager to move their enterprise workloads to the public cloud, many have been constrained by business, legislative and regulatory requirements that have prevented them from being able to adopt the technology. Oracle Cloud at Customer provides organisations with choice regarding where their data and applications reside and a natural path to eventually, and easily, move business critical applications to the public cloud.
On the continent there is no illusion about the importance of putting in place foundational infrastructure, and various industries are consolidating in order to tap into the power of automation, AI, machine learning and more. A traditional brick-and-mortar operation can transform into a customer-focussed, smart, reactive, relevant enterprise.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) partnered with Oracle in order to solve problems that had hampered the country’s revenue collection. A cumbersome and painful tax filing system meant the compliance rate was terribly low. The KRA’s vision is commitment to the concept of customer centricity. The implementation and rollout of iTax powered by Oracle Service Cloud, Policy Automation, Social Cloud and Marketing Cloud has brought the authority that much closer to achieving this. The end result is collecting more revenue to drive the development of the country, while also empowering its staff to serve customers in a digital era.
Digital transformation has meant there needs to be a coordinated approach to addressing the skills shortage as well as the risks that technological disruption is causing, such as cyber security. We have put in place numerous initiatives to help address this challenge, with programmes across sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and more.
In 2017, Oracle Academy and The Global Peace Foundation of Kenya signed an agreement that will allow our academy to support 24 public high schools in Kenya. As part of this, Oracle will train 180 teachers over three years to start teaching our Oracle Academy Java and Database courses. Driving the focus towards closing the skills gap is vital for big technology companies such as Oracle.
A similar example is found in Nigeria, where Oracle Academy has announced a partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education in that country, where the ministry will introduce our Oracle Academy computer science curriculum across 10,000 academic institutions, reaching 1,5-million students. To complement this, the Academy will facilitate the upskilling of 4,000 educators.
In South Africa, our Oracle Graduate Leadership Programme, launched in 2014, helps youth develop specialised IT skills required to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution. The programme has delivered eighty-four graduates to date and creates a future skills pipeline for our company and our partner community in the region.
There must be action behind rhetoric. Companies must put their visions and strategy into action and together we will unleash the immense potential of this continent. There used to be a saying about dreamers: “their head is in the clouds”. How appropriate that the dream of a technologically competitive Africa, which is unfolding at a rapid pace and is not fantasy but proven reality, also resides in the cloud.
(Andrew Sordam is the VP for sub-Saharan Africa at Oracle).