Interview: Pfungwa Serima

How do you view the relative efficiency of private clouds versus public or shared clouds?

PFUNGWA SERIMA: Cloud computing offers a range of meaningful opportunities to emerging countries. Users are able to interact with the cloud through mobile phones, tablet PCs and other mobile devices, and it is for this reason that public cloud options are potentially the best option in these economies. The public cloud is also the option of choice due to its lower cost-per-user model – there is no initial capital outlay to access the infrastructure and users can access the cloud via various telecoms at any point. The solutions are there, and for the most part they’re safe and users are at ease in dealing with them.

In African markets how do you rate the sophistication of cyber protection versus cyber threats?

SERIMA: Many cybercriminals use emerging markets as a base from which to target developed economies. This is often because while the tools – bandwidth and internet connections – are in place, the official governing and enforcement agencies don’t always have the ability to regulate these illegal activities. What we’re seeing is a growing trend of multinationals working with governments to help put in place security protocols and structures that benefit entire countries and educate industry within those countries about security issues.

What are the biggest differences in demand between emerging and developed markets?

SERIMA: Companies of all sizes in emerging markets have a greater need for simplified and unified business processes as opposed to standalone systems, such as accounting and point-of-sale solutions, which are often difficult, sometimes even impossible, or extremely expensive to integrate into existing IT infrastructures.

How can frontier markets such as Africa better cultivate software start-ups?

SERIMA: Africa is a place of rich opportunity for bright-eyed entrepreneurs, who are finding they can turn good ideas into market opportunities almost overnight. The reason for this is simple: even with patchy broadband access and high data costs, the cloud is providing an easy entry point to markets and platforms for entrepreneurs and small businesses across all sectors by reducing the cost and complexity of using technology to grow a business. Importantly for Africa, the cloud is not only fundamentally changing the way business operates, but is also driving a new wave of job-creation opportunities. According to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey, the world needs to create more than half a billion jobs for people joining the global workforce by 2020. By harnessing Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit, the cloud could boost small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and stimulate job creation.

One of the clearest opportunities being created by the cloud is in the technology space, where 600m mobile phone-using Africans are hungry for apps and services. Here, the cloud is offering African entrepreneurs almost inconceivable opportunities to explore new business models and even conceptualise, create and roll-out home-grown, feature-rich mobile apps.

While the major benefits of cloud computing – on-demand, mobile, socially networked, delivering real-time information – have combined to effectively level the playing field for smaller businesses, the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs in emerging economies remain funding and mentorship opportunities to allow them to focus on innovation and building their businesses. That is why it is important to create an African ecosystem of platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service solutions that are affordable and tailored for African SMEs in the cloud. This will allow the continent’s small businesses to develop uniquely African apps and access real-time data from almost any source, including relevant business information around emerging trends, sales and stock requirements. We have already seen examples of small businesses using technology to get a bold new business idea off the ground and going on to be successful in global marketplaces.