In a digitally transformed East Africa, software defines and powers successful businesses




By Christopher Saul

East Africa has a growing appetite for software. Whereas, previously, software was just another component of enterprises’ IT infrastructure, it has become the bedrock on which entire industries are being built. We see this appetite in the number of software developers in the region, as well as how institutions and industries are setting new goals. Like, for example, the launch of Kenya’s national e-commerce strategy that aims to promote trusted and secure services across the country. A byproduct of this strategy is easier market entry for smaller players into a sector that’s critical for national socioeconomic development, as well as increased participation in the digital economy.

By leveraging existing infrastructure and pursuing the right policies, we create an environment where businesses don’t just digitalise, but also start to develop their own applications and digital products. However, that requires them to do things a little differently and focus their efforts on enhancing internal development processes.

No two businesses are the same

If enterprises want to stay at the forefront of innovation and remain competitive in both local and international markets, they need to focus on the areas of expansion that matter most. In a digitally transformed East Africa, software defines and powers the successful business.

That’s why there’s an emphasis on building your own applications. Custom software enables enterprises to meet the specific needs of the organisation. At the same time, it’s an investment in a strategic asset that doesn’t just improve operations, but also helps distinguish the enterprise in terms of how it works and the digital products and services it offers customers.

Developing software may sound intimidating if you’re a start-up with a small budget, but there’s an important thing to remember. While the software may be custom, the platforms on which it is built are not. Application development platforms offer integrated technologies that help enterprises build and deploy software as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Regardless of capital and resource limits, platforms democratise the development process and enable developers to work and collaborate in a standardised and secure way.

Enter DevOps

DevOps is not just an organisation combining its development and IT operations teams for the sake of convenience. It is the means by which organisations can speed up the process of taking an idea, developing it, and deploying it in a production environment where it can provide immediate value to the organisation or its customers. Agility is the name of the game, and DevOps doesn’t just increase a team’s agility, but enables players to create new kinds of applications above and beyond traditional monolithic software.

DevOps is also critical in the age of cloud computing, whose adoption by industries has significantly grown across Africa in the last few years. Cloud-native applications – small, independent and loosely coupled services – are designed to deliver a consistent development and automated management experience across different and multiple environments. Therein lies one of the most crucial elements of software development.

It’s all about the experience

Cloud-native app development may pose new opportunities to Kenyan enterprises, but it also increases complexity, which can impact productivity levels and developer output. This is where developer experience (DevX) comes into play. Good DevX is best characterised as a frictionless interface within the DevOps approach. Developers can then create applications utilising the best tools and systems that are available to them. Ignoring DevX can lead to inefficiencies in workflow, developer burnout, and difficulty delivering new software and features.

To develop and deploy cloud-first applications, enterprises need to prioritise DevX by considering solutions that consolidate the process. For example, integrated development environments (IDEs) offer functions tailored to specific programming languages. This means teams can work in the way that best suits them. Another example is customisable self-managed developer portals that help onboard developers seamlessly thanks to system dashboards and data aggregation capabilities.

All this is a step in the direction of making the developer experience seamless, which is essential for enterprises in East Africa to remain competitive, agile, and forward-thinking. By streamlining and enhancing the development process, software can be a driving force for transformation, both inside the business and the in world beyond it.

(Christopher Saul is the Territory Sales Lead for East Africa at Red Hat).

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