The adoption of cloud computing has soared in the three main markets in sub-Saharan Africa in the past five years, but South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are using the technology very differently, according to new research.
The research, by World Wide Worx and commissioned by global network application specialist F5 Networks, shows that whereas fewer than 50% of medium-sized and large companies in the three countries were using cloud services five years ago, that figure is now between 95% and 100%.
The budgets for most companies surveyed — 200 in South Africa and 50 each in Kenya and Nigeria — are increasing for cloud computing. Very few — 2% or less — are decreasing their spending, said World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck. Companies see the cloud of a way of leapfrogging a lack of IT infrastructure, especially in Kenya and Nigeria.
More than 80% of respondents in all three countries said they will increase their budgets on cloud computing this year. In Kenya, the figure is 98%, versus 83% in South Africa. Goldstuck described the numbers as “exceptionally high”.
However, South African companies are more advanced in their use of cloud computing, with 28% of respondents saying they are deploying software-defined networks — “the cutting edge of cloud computing” — against only 4% in Nigeria. “In South Africa, companies are moving beyond cloud replacing infrastructure and are moving into more advanced and refined means of using the cloud,” he said. This includes “virtualising” data centres and networks, and automating them.
Microsoft, with Azure, is dominant cloud provider across all three countries, although Google is a strong competitor in Kenya. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is only an emerging player, used by only 2% of companies in each of the three markets.
In South Africa, Microsoft has a strong first-mover advantage, Goldstuck said. This is because the software giant’s local office is “heavily geared to corporate clients”.
“Microsoft has been selling Azure here for a long time, while AWS’s main presence in South Africa is at the developer centre, not geared to South African clients. It’s an advantage that will remain for some time.”
About 80% of respondents in Nigeria and 75% in Kenya named business efficiency and scalability as the most important benefits of using the cloud. In South Africa, the figure was 61% — lower than the other two markets because of the better availability of IT infrastructure.
Interestingly, cloud-based customer-facing service applications are far more important in Nigeria (68%) and Kenya (67%) than in South Africa (40%), where internal operational apps are key.
In South Africa, 43% of respondents said human resources apps were critical, against just 19% in Kenya and 10% in Nigeria.
“Apps that keep businesses running are more important to South African companies whereas customer-facing apps more important for Kenyan and Nigerian companies,” Goldstuck said.