Cloud computing has taken off dramatically across different African markets. ‘Cloud’ is a service you use every day, without even realising it. Whether with your mobile apps, email service (Gmail, Mozilla, Outlook) Facebook, online shopping services such as eBay/ Amazon- these are all services based in the cloud. Cloud computing is a general term associated with the delivery of services through public networks such as the Internet or private networks like corporate intranets.
Cloud computing enables companies to consume IT resources – Hardware, Software and Storage – as a utility — just like electricity — rather than having to build and maintain computing infrastructures in-house. Migrating to the cloud is no longer the complex process it once was. Thanks to the evolution of technology, moving from an on-premises environment can be done much more efficiently than before. Even attitudes towards this strategic shift have changed, according to a column by Karl Reed, Chief Solutions Officer at Elingo published by Africa Business Communities this week. We have also previously published a report on how increased utilisation of public cloud services and the additional investments into private and hybrid cloud solutions will enable organisations in South Africa to focus on innovation and accelerate the pace of digital business transformation. We have also previously published a column from Xalam Analytics on how data localization laws boost African cloud and colocation markets.
Cloud matters aside, Taxi hailing company Uber this week launched UberASSIST in Nairobi designed to provide additional assistance for members of the senior and disabled communities. This came a few months after the company also rolled out its uberBODA operations in Nairobi. The service is expected to provide residents of Nairobi a quick commute from one place to another on a Boda-Boda motorcycle by using the Uber app. In October last year, it also announced that it had entered into a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Suzuki Motor Corporation to expand the fuel-efficient UberCHAPCHAP option across Sub-Saharan Africa.
This week, Versa Networks, the innovator of the Secure Cloud IP platform, and BringCom Incorporated, a telecommunications provider focused on wholesale and retail telecommunications services in Africa, rolled out a joint solution to deliver Versa's best-in-class SD-WAN capabilities to BringCom's telecom managed service providers and SaaS platform operators in East and West Africa. This was not the first time the two partners were coming together. In 2018, they also announced a joint SD-WAN deployment in Africa to develop and deliver pan-Africa SD-WAN managed services.
In Uganda, the global provider of digital security Gemalto, in cooperation with local partner SCINT were this week awarded the contract for the supply of a Border Management System (BMS) including airport self-service eKiosks at Entebbe. In 2018 the company was also selected to supply Cairo International, the second busiest airport in Africa, with automated document readers that will enable faster border crossings for millions of travellers, whilst ensuring rigorous security checking of passports and other identity credentials. The company has previously also announced that its advanced e-passport technologies are now being used in over 30 different countries including Morocco and Algeria.
On matters fintech, digital lender Branch International announced its largest commercial paper issuance to date, raising Ksh500 million, following a Ksh350 million issuance in 2018 and a Ksh200 million issuance in 2017. In 2017, the mobile lender also raised Ksh200 million by issuing a commercial paper. In the same year, it also announced that it had disbursed a cumulative Sh3.63 billion ($35 million) loans in Kenya where virtual lending is growing in popularity. Recently, it entered into a new partnership with Visa to offer custom financing to merchants who accept payment via Visa.
Alibaba this week trained delegates from the government of Rwanda on enabling a digital economy in a four-day workshop dubbed the New Economy Workshop. The Chinese multinational conglomerate has recently been working closely with the Rwandan government. In November last year, President Paul Kagame and Alibaba GroupExecutive Chairman Jack Ma witnessed the signing of three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the Rwandan Government and Alibaba establishing an eWTP (electronic world trade platform) hub in Rwanda. In its quest to train the next generation of global entrepreneurs Alibaba Business School also unveiled a program tailored to educators in Rwanda. Called the “Global E-commerce Talent – Train the Trainers” program, the weeklong course covered topics from the digital economy and forming a company to risk management and acquiring customers.
Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) Africa this week also opened applications for its second annual MEST Africa Challenge, a Pan-African pitch competition for starups based in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa or Cote d’Ivoire who are ready to expand into new markets. Remember the company recently unveiled its fourth incubator and tech hub in Nairobi. The pan-African entrepreneurial training program, seed fund and tech incubator's new hub will serve as its flagship East African space and is located at the Nairobi Garage. Last year, MainOne partnered with the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) to provide high-speed internet access to the MEST Incubator in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Still, on African startups, African tech startups were this week invited to present their ideas to experts, investors and the media at the Airbus BizLab #Africa4Future open day in Nairobi. Nigeria’s digital content distribution startup Publiseer also announced that it has been accepted to Singularity University’s Global Startup Program (GSP). According to the recent Digest Africa INDEX, an annual report that summarises Africa’s technology investment landscape Africa’s 50 most funded tech companies in 2018 raised a total of $618M.
On matters Telecom, Kenya’s telecommunication company Telkom announced that it will dedicate KSh. 1 billion, $10 million, into the expansion and optimisation of its 4G and 3G network. This came a few months after the European Investment Bank signed a loan agreement worth $40 million with Telkom. In view of the growing demand for telecommunication services, Telkom said it will invest heavily in its 3G and 4G coverage throughout Kenya. Recently Telkom also launched Free Zones for its pre-paid voice customers. Free Zones are selected areas where Telkom Kenya will offer free calls, all day and all night, with no conditions.
Leading digital money transfer service WorldRemit was also in the news this week. The company launched its low-cost digital money transfer service from South Africa to over 145 destinations worldwide. Coming a few days after the digital payments service provider also partnered with Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) to launch its first ever international mobile money transfer service to Ethiopia. The company also recently entered into a similar partnership with Pride Microfinance Ltd (MDI) to allow customers to send money instantly to 30 new cash pickup locations in Uganda - from Arua to Kabale.
Other highlights of the week included Vodacom through its entertainment-streaming platform Video Play securing the rights to live-stream the 2018-19 FA Cup, the oldest national football competition in the world, Microsoft South Africa appointing Lillian Barnard as new Managing Director, Konnect Africa launching broadband internet in Côte d'Ivoire and VFS Global awarded contract to open new passport application centres in Ghana.
In Zimbabwe, citizens turned to VPNs following social media shutdown and internet blackout by the government while in Nigeria, Growsel, the Nigeria tech company that connects underserved base of the pyramid smallholder farmers with lenders across the globe received software from Oracle NetSuite Social Impact for growing social enterprises.