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Africa falls behind in cloud, emerging tech adoption

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Organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are two years behind their global counterparts in their public and private cloud journey, and up to five years behind in the deployment of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence.

This is one of the key findings of the “State of commercial and enterprises in SSA” study conducted by research firm IDC, in collaboration with open source software firm Red Hat. The resultant report, based on interviews with 305 IT leaders and CIOs from SA, Nigeria and Kenya, provides a landscape of the region’s digital transformation.

The research shows that while SSA is undergoing massive transformation in the adoption of cloud and new technologies, over the past two years, the pandemic has largely resulted in firms placing their digital initiatives on hold, to focus on the rollout of remote working services for their workforce.

While this helped them accelerate the shift to remote working technologies, it resulted in the majority of firms falling years behind global counterparts in their cloud migration endeavours, as well as meeting their vision in the adoption of emerging technologies.

Releasing the research findings at a Red Hat media conference last week, Johan Scheepers, solution architect leader at Red Hat Africa, noted Africa’s burgeoning data centre industry has led to cloud activity hype on the continent. However, many companies are still at the start of their cloud journey.

This has led to an increased cloud skills gap, leaving firms desperate to fill the growing demand for digital skills.

“While we are seeing more businesses investing in hybrid environment or multi-cloud, there is a significant shortage of cloud skills and software developers in the region, amid a new way of developing new-age applications, including platform-as-a-service, database-as-a-service and data-collection-as-a-service.

“Cloud migration as a specific function scores low in organisations’ investment priorities, and company leaders tell us it’s difficult for them to hire for specific cloud-related roles,” noted Scheepers.

Johan Scheepers, solution architect leader at Red Hat Africa.
Johan Scheepers, solution architect leader at Red Hat Africa.

When asked which areas they are likely to invest in to address their business and ICT challenges in 2022, the minority (33%) of respondents said cloud migration. On the other hand, 55% said data analytics; 43% said security technologies and skills; while 45% prioritised application management.

According to Scheepers, among those that have made the cloud shift, Red Hat has observed an interesting pattern – a steady increase in the number of organisations that have opted to leave their in-house data centre for either public cloud or a co-location environment, which they believe to be a more stable environment.

“In terms of public cloud deployment, we find it very interesting that with more data centres being rolled out in the SSA and hyperscalers establishing on the continent, more businesses are moving to the public cloud and abandoning their own data centres.

“Over the next two years, we expect a 34% decrease in the number of organisations running their applications on-premises in favour of public cloud.”

In March 2019, Microsoft opened two data centre regions in SA, becoming the first global provider to deliver cloud services from data centres on the African continent. Since then, Amazon, Huawei, German start-up CloudRadar, Dimension Data and Teraco have been among the companies that have established cloud regions on the African continent.

Of the CIOs surveyed, 90% revealed they were using open source technologies for several purposes, primarily in networking (51%), databases (47%) and IT operations management (46%). This, notes the report, is a signal that open source technology is being deployed strategically to prepare for the adoption of other technologies.

Also speaking at the event, Dion Harvey, regional general manager at Red Hat in Sub-Saharan Africa, pointed out that over the next few years, SSA organisations are expected to accelerate their cloud migration initiatives – a move that will have a significant effect on enterprise application spend.

Dion Harvey, regional general manager at Red Hat in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Dion Harvey, regional general manager at Red Hat in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“There is massive innovation across Africa…there is definitely a propensity and a willingness to adopt world-class technology, with countries such as Kenya leapfrogging many other countries across the globe.

“When we say that Africa is lagging in cloud adoption, it’s not because we are slower in adoption, it’s because we are perhaps behind time – we didn’t have some of the new cloud-based technologies at the time when they launched in the US and Europe – but I think that gap will slowly narrow going forward,” stated Harvey.

Now that markets are recovering from the impact of COVID-19, CIOs are inclined to adopt a more business-aligned vantage point, with 54% of companies expecting their ICT spending to increase in 2022, says the report.

“Priorities for CIOs are changing, as markets look to future prospects, and while long-term projects return to the forefront, business leaders are still geared towards ensuring the essentials. Hence, improving productivity (54%) and improving cost-efficiencies (51%) are the two top priorities for CIOs,” says the report.

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