South Africans have underestimated the opportunities the rest of Africa offers and businesses here risk being left behind as other countries pump money into the continent.
That’s the view of Pfungwa Serima (pictured), who heads up the sub-Saharan Africa region for German software giant SAP.
SAP is planning to grow its presence in Africa north of SA substantially as it seeks to take advantage of rapidly growing markets across the continent.
“Africa is moving at a speed most people never thought it would,” Serima says. “The recession didn’t hit Africa as it did the rest of the world.”
He says that with assistance of the World Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, many African markets are finding “robust and sustainable solutions” to grow their economies.
“South Africans haven’t taken the time to go out and look and listen and really understand the potential,” Serima says.
SAP is targeting a number of markets in East, West and Southern Africa for expansion and has set up regional hubs in SA (still its biggest market), Nigeria and Kenya. It is also pumping investment into Angola, in particular, where oil is fuelling an economic boom.
SAP has signed up clients across the continent, including Ethiopian Airlines, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp, Angolan oil company Sonango, Kenya Electricity Generating Company and Kenyan Ports Authority.
The biggest challenge for SAP is the lack of reliable and high-speed telecommunications infrastructure on the continent, though Serima says new terrestrial and submarine cables will eventually “normalise the situation”.
Finding skills is also tough, but SAP is having success in encouraging “the diaspora” to return home and convincing staff at its 350-strong SA office to “take projects north”. SAP’s implementation partners — companies like Accenture, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and IBM — are also expanding their presence on the continent. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral