AWS bets on cloud tech to boost SA economy

AWS public sector country leader says cloud empowers industries and individuals to innovate and access a global audience and marketplace.

Johannesburg, 27 Nov 2023
Rashika Ramlal, Country Manager, AWS Africa.
Rashika Ramlal, Country Manager, AWS Africa.

As South African industries continue to ride digital evolution, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is expanding its footprint in South Africa with the belief that cloud technology is a critical enabler for competitive advantage in the fourth industrial revolution.

AWS Public Sector Country Leader, Rashika Ramlal, spoke at the recent ITWeb Cloud and Data Centre Summit 2023 about the necessity of digital transformation and cloud migration.

"Bringing people along with you is, of course, very important in terms of your digital transformation strategy. You must never forget your people. So, it's critical that we invest in skills development," she explained.

According to Ramlal, the emergence and spread of new technologies creates a surge in demand for talent to gain and retain in-demand, industry-relevant skills.

"Industries have to invest in upskilling their workforces in order to future-proof operations and remain competitively profitable in a digital era," she said.

She explained how AWS is committed to promoting digital literacy goals through innovative development programmes that promote South Africa's National Digital and Future Skills Strategy.

This led to the formation of the AWS Equity Equivalent Investment Programme in South Africa in 2019. AWS is spending more than US$20 million (R365 million) to establish 100% black-owned tech SMEs up to December 2026.

Ramlal said AWS's demand for skills comes at a time when the tech sector is under pressure to assist in expanding skills in the country.

Digital skills are being promoted as a solution to the high unemployment rate, and the government is looking to the digital sector to combat youth unemployment.

Ramlal emphasised in her talk that cloud technology may empower both individuals and companies to innovate and access a global audience and marketplace.

"We have already seen some of our customers spearhead breakthrough innovations on South African soil,” she said. “These are solutions that ultimately benefit and improve the quality of lives of our citizens and benefit the local economy."

The launch of the AWS Africa (Cape Town) Region, according to Ramlal, illustrates the company's long-term commitment to South Africa. "We have always believed in the potential of cloud computing technologies and the opportunities it brings to stimulate the South African economy," she said of the investment.

To that end, Ramlal stated that AWS's investment in South Africa from 2018 to 2022 contributed R12 billion in GDP while supporting an anticipated average of 5 700 full-time local employment opportunities on an annual basis.

She also highlighted other major company South African milestones, such as AWS Skills Centres – comprehensive and accessible in-person cloud learning facilities that were introduced in August 2023.

"These centres are designed for anyone who is curious about cloud computing, career opportunities in the industry, and how to gain the skills to achieve their career goals," she stated. “The spaces bring cloud computing to life for the local community by demonstrating how it powers anything from weather forecasting to smart homes.”

She said this is simply another way AWS is making training available to those who thrive in physical training sessions or who may not have access to a computer at home. “Anyone is welcome to walk in and begin taking free in-person classes. The seminars are intended for persons with little or no prior experience with technology."

She explained that the AWS Skills Centre Cape Town allows learners to receive cloud computing skills training, unlocking new career opportunities in high demand cloud tech, regardless of a person's background, education or social status.

"The new 10 000-square-foot space demonstrates real-world applications of cloud computing and related career prospects through interactive exhibitions on robots, space, games and machine learning."

Ramlal was excited to share that, according to an independent Economic Impact Study, AWS activities are set to provide an additional R68 billion to South Africa's GDP by 2029. To add to the impact, she said AWS also intends to invest an additional R30.4 billion in its South African cloud infrastructure by 2029.

“We’re not just about selling another technical solution. That's not what we're about. We put customers at the centre of every single thing that we do. And at AWS we have a soft spot for South Africa,” she concluded.