Cloud service providers need to think small

The African enterprise space may be in the nascent stages of development, but it’s time has certainly come. A new stream, Enterprise ICT Africa, made its appearance at AfricaCom this year, putting a strong focus on the opportunities for cloud services in the region.

As many of the industry’s thought leaders have advised, Africa is in a good position to generate opportunities where other more developed regions have failed. On the opening day Camille Mendler, principal analyst and head of enterprise verticals at Informa Telecoms & Media, called for new segmentation methods for the market in order to capitalise on contextual opportunities. In this case, Mendler believes there is a significant opportunity for cloud services in the ‘long tail’, the blue collar market and micro-businesses.

“Small is beautiful. Looking at the small enterprise opportunity is where much value will be found,” she said.

But to date, carriers have focused on a very linear model, based on how many connections they can sell into a single group or customer on a ‘one size fits all’ basis.

“So far it’s a counting game,” said Mendler. “But the marketplace is more crowded in a digital world and everybody is changing business model. So a plain vanilla offering for enterprises of all sizes is not good enough.”

In an emerging, as in a developed, economy, micro and small businesses are the biggest denominator. These users may not be in an office, because their office is their mobile device, and so they need to be targeted with specific services for those on the move.

Most cloud-based as-a-service offerings are targeted at white collar workers in an office environment, but tailored solutions for smaller businesses can generate good revenues, even if they form part of the “informal” economy.

“The informal economy has such a huge impact, especially in places like Africa. They might not be paying taxes to the government but they may still buy services from you,” Mendler told the audience.

“These players will contribute more to the growth of the economy than large enterprises will in Africa.”

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