Africa is an exciting market with great prospects and is being projected as the next emerging market. This is probably the right time to be operating in Africa considering that its economies are growing and its industries are embracing technology. Not only is cloud adoption increasing, internet is also becoming more affordable and accessible which can be leveraged by organisations to use technology to expand their businesses. Also, the absence of a cumbersome legacy infrastructure has given Africa a distinct advantage over many of its global counterparts to benefit from the cloud while being well-suited for a post infrastructure era.
The African market is also becoming a centre of big tech investments and start-ups. Governments are increasingly encouraging private investments in projects that will lead the economic growth of the continent, building a welcoming investment and start-up ecosystem. In addition, organizations are increasingly moving away from a focus on physical assets to a digitally-driven business model as they are well aware of the long-term impact of digital transformation.
Speaking about the key driving factors for growth in Africa’s IT market, Sales and Channel Director at SonicWall, Shahnawaz Sheikh states, “Some of reasons why Africa is witnessing rapid growth are continued expansion of IT infrastructure in most African countries, increase in IT budgets, increase in adoption of state-of-the-art technologies and the desire for improved automation and business enablers driven by IT.”
However, due to its size, the state of growth, opportunities and challenges, all vary from one part of the continent to the other. Research analysts identify South Africa as leading in IT spend while countries in West and East Africa are identified as emerging markets that are still plagued with infrastructure issues but hold potential waiting to be tapped.
StarLink witnessed substantial growth in Africa this year and 2017 has been a promising one for the company. Outside of the Middle East, StarLink Sub-Saharan Africa is leading the way for all its international branches. The distributor is also looking to expand its footprint in 2018 by establishing its office in East Africa (Kenya) and increasing its workforce by almost 35%.
“StarLink is experiencing growth both in terms of market reach and channel expansion. Our core markets include Nigeria and Morocco in addition to having direct presence in Egypt and South Africa,” adds Avinash Advani, Sr. VP Strategic Alliances – International Markets, StarLink.
Similar to StarLink, Mimecast will also continue to expand into Africa to increase its customer base but its focus will remain on Namibia and Botswana and more specifically Kenya. South Africa remains the core market for Mimecast where the company will focus on educating its customers.
“Kenya is booming at the moment. There is so much innovation coming out of this market and businesses are embracing the adoption of cloud technology. This of course increases the need for advanced security, so there’s a huge opportunity there. There’s a definite awareness of the email-borne threats but education is going to be vital and our partners on the ground will need to help us communicate just how damaging a cyber-attack can be,” says Jason Roos, Channel and Alliances Director, Mimecast.
SonicWall has only just begun setting its roots in the continent and is getting ready to strengthen its foundation in most African markets by gaining loyalty and appreciation towards its partner program. “Our mission is to offer comprehensive security supported very well by innovation and collaboration driven by engineering team sets a perfect recipe for successful journey,” adds Sheikh.
To strengthen its ties to the continent, Attivo Networks recently announced a strategic partnership with Networks Unlimited, Africa’s leading value-added distributor. With this distribution partnership, the two companies aim to extend comprehensive next-generation deception-based cyber security defence to customers across the South and Sub-Saharan region.
As more organisations look for solutions that will help them digitally transform, they are going to approach the channel to help them with all of their IT needs. Hence, channel partners play a key role in building a sustainable business model by not only committing to a product and technology but also building competencies so that products and services may be delivered with proper know-how.
Advani at StarLink stresses that channel is the lifeblood in distribution ecosystem and as a distributor, understanding the channel life cycle is key to ensuring that our channel partners are aligned and equipped to respond to the market’s demands.
While having a strong channel has its benefits, the Vice President (META) at Attivo Networks, Ray Kafity adds that there are a number of challenges that come with being a channel partner: margins are under pressure, customers’ expectations change daily, and new technologies emerge all the time that alter the market and competitive landscape.
“It is fair to say that the present channel ecosystem has evolved from the channel that existed two or three years ago. In order to meet customer demands promptly, the channel across Africa is becoming more scalable and flexible in its approach. We will continue to see this pace of channel transformation accelerate across the region, as the market embraces the new era of powerful enterprise IT,” adds Kafity.
In order to wade through such challenges, Mimecast believes in backing and rewarding its core partners throughout the continent as a means of appreciation for delivering a steady flow of customers. “By throwing our weight behind channel partners that deliver the best results, we are confident that it will benefit both parties and result in successful and profitable partnerships,” explains Roos.
The channel in Africa continues to see improvement in the way they have been serviced by distributors and vendors and add value in terms of skills, vertical access, market reach, customer retention, solution specialization etc. In this booming economy, it is impossible for vendors to operate independently in every African country. As market opportunities grow their dependence on channel partners to educate customers and sell solutions will be a key factor for business expansion. However, the desire for the African market to take part in the global competitive business landscape and to be at the forefront of technology remains the key driving force.