Getting to grips with the transition to cloud and the security systems to keep your data assets safe in Sub-Saharan Africa

8 July 2022

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Moving to the cloud has moved from being a conference ‘buzz phrase’ to something that African companies are doing in increasing numbers. Russell Southwood spoke to Andrew Mori, CEO, Deimos about the experiences of making the cloud transition, the security perils of the cloud, industry skills shortages and what Deimos is doing about them.

Founded in 2018, Deimos describes itself as a cloud native developer and security operations company. It was launched out of Andrew Mori’s experiences in VC-backed, high-growth companies: “I have a lot of experience as a CTO which is a funny position. You’re managing many stakeholders outside the tech space in a company, like the CEO, Marketing Head and so on. Through that experience, I’ve learnt how to manage different stakeholders in a company. I wanted to help businesses make smart decisions and to enable more change.”

The most common use case for the company is helping others to save money by moving to the cloud: “It can be expensive if you do it the wrong way and we help companies manage their costs.” The most common mistake is for a company to say: “We do things in a certain way ‘on prem’ so we’ll do the same in the cloud: “You should be improving processes and adapting them. You can make them more secure in the cloud.”

Part of the savings in the cloud are made by being open to new technologies: “The two biggest things about the cloud are the containerized paradigm (Kubernetes) and the server-less paradigm. We encourage customers to adapt to the cloud fully.” Mori feels that companies need to understand the reality of ‘on prem’: “The reality is that redundancy and back-up procedures are far inferior to public cloud storage.”

And he’s also fairly straightforward about security: “Lots of people think cloud will solve security issues. The responsibility still sits with the users.”Again there are pitfalls in simply following the same procedures a company might have in place when things are ‘on prem’ and not investing enough in cloud-based security.

“What I’ve seen over the last 20 years is that companies are focused on features for customers and getting them to market. All the focus goes there. There is not so much attention paid to security and observability. Cyber-crime is on the rise and it’s getting more sophisticated. Companies will start to want to focus on security because of potential financial and reputational damage.”

So where does it make sense to locate a company’s data?: “The AWS Africa region has three zones and there’s a Microsoft Azure region in South Africa. But technologically there’s no difference between sharing in one area or another. It’s not really a technology question, it’s about non-tech considerations like regulation, particularly issues like financial requirements and privacy.”

So what in his experience has been the primary motivation for companies making the transition to the cloud?: “There is no single answer, it’s a bit of everything. There are efficiency gains but cloud can be very expensive if you’re not paying attention: you can end up doubling the costs if you don’t. No software engineer wants to work on outdated, legacy systems so there’s a talent retention issue.”

There is a real shortage of cloud talent in Sub-Saharan Africa: “There is a massive shortage of cyber-security skills. Africa now has a massive amount of intellectual capital, especially in Nigeria and Kenya. Africa’s standing up as a digital skills source of talent. But there are not enough senior people, with 10-15 years experience. They’re all overseas or in senior positions. We need more seniors”

Deimos has been investing in bootcamps and internships and has put money into SheCode and DevCareers. They offer people without computer science qualifications 3 month bootcamps and 12 internships: “As soon as someone has been through bootcamp, they typically get poached. It’s OK if there’s some attrition but we need to increase the skills base.”

Although based in Cape Town, it has its largest number of customers in Nigeria and the highest number (55) of staff there. It also has a large customer base in East Africa, most of which are in Kenya and it has recently acquired a customer in the DRC and is expanding into Ghana, Rwanda and Zimbabwe: “They are predominantly Fintech businesses.” Its competitors are Open Network (South Africa) and Incentro (Nigeria and Kenya) as well as other cloud partners in the AWS and Azure spaces.

In Brief

Ethiopia: Safaricom Ethiopia, a subsidiary of Kenyan telco Safaricom, has confirmed that its long-anticipated mobile launch will begin next month. In a Twitter announcement, the newcomer’s CEO Anwar Soussa said that the launch will begin with the city of Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia, near the Oromia and Somali Region border, followed by the switch-on of services in a further 24 cities by April 2023 – including the capital Addis Ababa ‘in the next few months’. By next April Safaricom Ethiopia hopes to have made its services available to 25% of the population.

Kenya: Public utility company Kenya Power announced this week that it will launch fixed broadband internet services by June 2023, reports Agence Ecofin. The firm says the move – which it has hinted at since last year – will help it diversify revenue streams and address challenges faced by its electricity division.

Cameroon: MTN Cameroon announced the adoption of a new data analytics and AI platform to drive its digital transformation plans. The new solution unifies and correlates mobile operator and subscriber data into a single 360-degree view and enables real-time decisioning with LigaData’s Data Fabric and Flare products.

Visa, a world leader in digital payments, has announced that it is partnering with Flocash to promote digital capabilities for African SMEs through digital payments, supplier solutions and access to financial services. The first step in this partnership is the launch of Flostore, powered by a Visa digital wallet and the Flocash pan -African payment platform, which can help small businesses accept digital payments, manage supplies and access financial services across Africa.

Meta announced that it has built and open sourced ‘No Language Left Behind’ NLLB-200 (https://bit.ly/3yJo7KS), a single AI model that is the first to translate across 200 different languages, including 55 African languages with state-of-the-art results. Meta is using the modelling techniques and learnings from the project to improve and extend translations on Facebook, Instagram, and Wikipedia.

Guinea: The Guinean government is still determined to resurrect the incumbent operator Societe des Telecommunications de Guinee (Sotelgui), now known as Guinee Telecoms, reports Mosaique Guinee.

Following a visit to the company’s headquarters on 30 June, Bamba Oliano, Secretary General of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Digital Economy, reiterated that the state is still seeking financial partners to relaunch the company.

People: Pan-African data centre operator Open Access Data Centres (OADC) has announced the appointment of African data centre industry leader Dr Ayotunde Coker (formerly Rack Centre CEO) as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO)...MEST Africa has appointed Melissa Nsiah as Director of Portfolio.

Southbridge A&I, Salient Advisory and SCIDaR have partnered to launch i3, sponsored by the Gates Foundation, the pan-African “Investing in Innovation” programme will provide 30 African e-health startups per year with access to a systematic grant of US$50,000, market and government access events across the continent, and connections to a high-level global ecosystem in the healthcare community.

Senegal: Orange Group and its Senegalese subsidiary Sonatel have opened the Orange 5G Lab Dakar, the group’s first such facility on the African continent for the testing and development of fifth-generation products and services.

DRC: African telecoms group Africell has requested additional spectrum to improve its network coverage in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Agence Ecofin writes. According to the news outlet, a member of Africell’s board of directors discussed the matter with telecom minister Augustin Kibassa on the side lines of a conference late last month.