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NJIHIA: Building Africa’s second last mile cloud platform


Africa’s digital landscape presents a ripe opportunity for transformational products and services. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Africa has been trending for a while as a hot ticket investment destination and as a continent we have quite a bit going for us. We have a growing youthful population, rising middleclass, fast rate of urbanisation and carry little baggage by way of established legacy systems.

Africa’s digital landscape presents a ripe opportunity for transformational products and services.

However, to capitalise on this opportunity one needs stable, high availability platforms that can scale. Many technology entrepreneurs have gone on to make use of infrastructure (IaaS), backend (BaaS) and platform (PaaS) as a service from providers such as Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Alibaba Cloud, IBM BlueMix, Oracle Cloud among others that offer suites covering compute power, networking, databases, storage, analytics, management and deployment tools, developer kits et al, that can be mixed and matched to one’s solution delight.

With the total cost of ownership reduced by competitive pricing and features such as discounts on reserved instances, continuous use or generous credits, the only checkbox that remains unmarked to have these as near perfect solutions, is that of availability zones.


Simply put, availability zones are fully-fledged physically isolated data centeres within a region that are connected to each other by low-latency private network connections and allow for the alignment of services built on them, to regulation that governs issues such as data residency and user privacy, up and above the benefit of being closer to the end user.

Most global cloud service providers do not have active zones anywhere on the African continent which leaves most techpreneurs inclined to either Ireland, London or Frankfurt as the shortest hop. What needs to be done to close on this second-last mile is very clear and a number of players have taken notice. There are startups such as Node Africa and Angani that are helping frame value for the small to medium size business segment while bigger players such as Liquid Telkom, Seacom, Orange, Safaricom, Tata Communications, Djibouti Data Center, Icolo, East Africa Data Center among others, go for the enterprise wholesale B2B segment, split between providing bare metal, carriage capacity and last mile.

Financial services, gaming (MMOG’s), education (MOOC’s) and the emerging IoT verticals make a good case for faster, more responsive user experiences that discerning consumers are starting to demand. Partnerships and collaboration on the B2B segment is the clear winning strategy. Physical rails must be laid for the digital dividend to be fully realised and no one player can manage it all.


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