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VIEWPOINT: Outlook cloudy in Africa

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If you want to expand your business overseas, your choices are limited. Europe and other developed markets are debatably saturated, so the biggest opportunity lies in the undeveloped but burgeoning markets of Africa. Africa is seen as a land of opportunity, with masses of people desperately in need of limitless numbers of products and services, and rich with untapped natural resources …

But doing business in Africa brings its own challenges, including a lack of infrastructure at most levels. Flights are few and unreliable and the distances you need to travel are often impossible to cover without going from plane to train to bus to taxi over days.

Large portions of the African continent have security issues – from war zones, to theft born out of poverty and desperation, to a lack of physical infrastructure. These physical discomforts and threats are obstacles to convincing skilled professionals needed to run businesses and implementations to travel to these places.

Once you have managed to safely reach your destination, you face the difficulties of actually doing business there; from slow to non-existent connectivity to juggling the legal and cultural diversities prevalent throughout the continent and even within individual countries on the continent.

Cloud-based services offer an obvious way to expand your business offerings to new clients near and far. There are the benefits cloud brings to all businesses – cost savings of no longer owning the infrastructure and software, updates, faster integrations, customisations, fixes and even additional products and features that can be implemented without physical presence.

Sounds like manna from heaven in the African context, addressing many of the pitfalls addressed previously. Yet, the lack of infrastructure that makes cloud such a perfect solution for Africa is also the biggest obstruction to it. There have been enormous developments in the ICT industry in East and West Africa, but there is still a massive lack of infrastructure to support the high-speed connectivity needed to make cloud a fully viable option. So although the infrastructure is growing, Africa still needs on-site products.

With many companies focusing their development on moving away from on-site installation and into the development of cloud, soon the only thing they will have to offer is cloud …

Author: Kevin Phillips CA(SA) is Managing Director of idu Software