By Andrew Sordam
It is only 100 days since I took up the post of VP for Africa at Oracle, but already it is clear why the continent is such a priority for the company and why it is considered a land of opportunity in the technology space.
Consolidation of modernisation
Africa is seeing huge population growth, and a marked increase in consumer spending, resulting in a big demand for 24/7 service. The much-discussed leapfrogging effect, which we have seen in areas like power and telecommunications, has helped the continent develop at speed. Nevertheless, it has also placed huge demands on modern businesses.
Companies of various shapes and sizes are taking advantage of the latest technology to improve the way they do business, but a major, more recent trend is that many are now looking at the consolidation of this modernisation. These are companies that are growing very quickly, and they want seamless and complete integration between the front and back office.
This is happening across the board – major corporates, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), financial services companies, those in retail, in financial services, for example, East and West African banks are beginning to merge, with such mergers requiring new strategies.
Adoption of technology is not just for the commercial sector, however. In the public sector, greater efficiencies are also being sought. Each government department used to have its own information technology (IT) department. Nevertheless, that is now changing and we are seeing convergence into one service centre. This is a big trend across the continent. The public sector, like the private sector, is looking for integrated technologies to help it become more effective and keep up with demand.
Herein lies the opportunity for a company like Oracle. We help private, public sector organisations develop and improve processes. Most importantly, we are looking at complete solutions.
The opportunity is massive in Africa in this regard. We see the impact of our organisation in every line of business. We are able to give customers choice to either go in with the entire stack – from apps, to infrastructure, to vertical solutions or multiple modular journeys to the cloud. In each instance, this is based on business needs and can be either private or public cloud. The impact is set to be further scaled with our new approach on the continent.
Our CEO Mark Hurd spoke recently about our plans for leveraging our leading Software-as-a-service (SaaS) business to seize business-to-business (B2B) market share. Africa is no different to anywhere else in this regard, though we see a particular opportunity in increasing our cloud business here. We shall therefore focus on this more.
Oracle’s model encourages the adoption of cloud particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, giving businesses the benefit of flexibility. Because we invest so much in innovation, it is easy for customers to manage, and we embed more optimisation than anyone else. Apps and databases are embedded with artificial intelligence (AI), making our services easy to adopt – a major benefit. Our solutions can basically run your business, saving you money on human capital.
Yet where we truly stand out at Oracle is our cloud autonomous play. We have an advantage here, with the autonomous category being our own invention. We believe customers in Africa will adopt this technology and improve their businesses as a result.
The Oracle Autonomous Database, for example, completely reshapes our customer’s approach to IT, helping them free their budgets and resources to focus on business growth, while reducing risk.
Using machine learning and AI-driven technology, our cloud services can be upgraded, optimised, secured, patched and tuned automatically, without human intervention. Easy management encourages adoption, which speeds business growth. This is vital for economic development in emerging economies such as those in Africa.
A full ecosystem
For all the exciting trends and opportunities I have spotted in my first 100 days, however, there are also a myriad of challenges.
At the heart of it all are skills. The technology may be there, but you still need the knowledge from within each industry and country in order to maintain a certain level of service. Oracle in that respect invests in capacity. The growth of Africa as a business hub – and therefore the success of our business on the continent – depends on building a self-sustaining ecosystem.
That is why we focus on developing digital skills across the continent. Our open platform for developers works with local coding communities to build developer skills, while we also partner with development agencies, non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations as well as educational institutions, among others in order to address information and communications technology ( ICT) skills shortages.
That is also why we look at accelerating startups and entrepreneurs, and building skill sets across many countries. We recently announced , for example, the Ghana-Oracle Digital Enterprise Programme, a collaborative effort that will support five hundred technology-enabled startups and entrepreneurs across Ghana through access to Oracle Cloud technology, mentoring and workshops, business-enablement as well as support resources. SMEs are the backbone of emerging market economies. It is therefore vital that we should support them.
We want to run initiatives like this in other countries too. Although technology is important, we feel knowledge needs to be nurtured as well.
A bright future
Oracle has been present in Africa for nearly three decades, but never before have we been as excited for the future here as we are now. This is demonstrated by the launch of our first Oracle Innovation Hub on the continent, located in South Africa, to help drive the implementation of emerging technologies across the country’s businesses, public sector and academia.
The writer is the Vice President for Africa at Oracle