What’s Driving the African Cloud Computing Boom?

Given the fact that cloud computing is such a new technology, and indeed many people in the world are not even familiar with it yet, one doesn’t really associate it with a part of the globe that is most commonly referred to as the third world.

But the recent growth of the cloud in one particular African nation indicates clearly that the continent is moving forward with its instigation of cloud computing on a theatre-wide basis.

African Cloud and Internet activity hotspots

A report this week has indicated that more businesses in Nigeria will be using cloud-based services than in South Africa by the end of 2014, with Nigeria also apparently shooting past Kenya in the same list in the process. This is according to a survey which has recently been carried out by the American multinational networking company, Cisco, with some assistance from World Wide Worx.

‘The Cloud in Africa: Reality Check 2013′ research study found that already half of South Africa’s medium and large-sized businesses are using the cloud, as opposed to 48 per cent in Kenya and 36 per cent in Nigeria. But this is expected to change rapidly in the next couple of years, as 44 per cent of the Nigerian businesses surveyed indicated that they expect to adopt the cloud by the end of 2014. This compared to just 16 per cent in South Africa and 24 per cent in Kenya.

Cisco indicated in their report that there is a broadband revolution spreading through Africa like wildfire, and that the lack of conditioned thinking on IT matters in the continent would stand the cloud in good stead within the continent in the coming years. Of those polled, over 90 per cent had no security concerns about the cloud, which would probably differ somewhat to the same figure among Western companies, even though the adoption and take up of the cloud is steadily increasing across the Western world.

It is perhaps hard for those of us in the West to imagine Nigeria rapidly embracing the cloud, but news seeping out of the nation in recent weeks has indicated that this is emphatically the case. Just weeks ago, it was reported widely that Computer Warehouse Group Plc, a Nigerian technology company, was seeking to raise capital via the stock exchange in order to completely restructure the company’s business toward cloud computing, and away from traditional hardware and software. Computer Warehouse Group is apparently aiming to become the largest cloud-computing provider in Africa by 2015.

In announcing the news, the company spoke enthusiastically about being a “trailblazer” in cloud computing, and also stated that they expected many computing firms in Nigeria, and across the whole of the African continent, to follow suit once they’d witnessed how successful Computer Warehouse Group’s plan had been.

It was reported in accordance with this that African computing companies are increasingly looking to the cloud to increase the profit margins. For example, Dimension Data Holdings Ltd, a South African firm acquired the California-based OpSource in 2011 in order to catalyse its cloud operation. The trend for African firms to move into cloud computing has been exemplified by the recent growth in the industry in Nigeria, but it is by no means limited to the nation that is expected to become Africa’s biggest cloud advocated within a couple of years.

Aside from the lack of dogmatism with regard to cloud computing in Africa, the relative lack of existing IT infrastructure has also been cited as a reason for the growing interest in the cloud in Africa. It makes little sense for companies to invest money that they may very well not have in expensive IT equipment, if it is not necessary, and may even become obsolete in the future. The same can be said for the uptake of mobile networks and mobile devices in Africa – why build expensive legacy fixed line network infrastructure when modern wireless communications will do?
Aside from the African study, Cisco has also recently published its third annual Global Cloud Index, which suggests that global cloud traffic will increase by over 450% by 2017, reaching 5.3 zettabytes four years from now. This same global study predicted that the Middle East and Africa will have the highest growth in cloud traffic over the period.

The Middle East and North Africa are often associated with one another hence the acronym MENA, partly due to their geographical proximity, but also due to business and economic ties which have been built up due to the area’s housing of some of the world’s richest supplies of crude oil. It goes without saying that the adoption of the cloud in the world’s most oil-rich region will be a huge boost to the future of the technology.

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