‘Africa needs data laws to boost cloud adoption’


A lack of African-wide data privacy laws is a barrier to widespread cloud adoption by businesses on the continent, and even a potential hurdle for faster economic growth.

This is the view of South African born Mike Ettling, the global head of cloud and on-premise human resources (HR) for business software firm SAP, who spoke to ITWeb Africa on Tuesday in Johannesburg.

Africa has been slow to adopt data privacy laws with the continent’s most developed economy, South Africa, only starting to implement its Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) bill this year.

Also, moves by the likes of the African Union (AU) to implement a continent-wide ‘cybercrime’ convention have been stalled this year owing to organisations protesting the regulation over its alleged proposed breaches on personal freedoms.

“It would be fantastic if the AU could come up with a European Union (EU) style data privacy legislation regime, where it doesn’t matter where the data centre is in Africa, as long as it’s in the union, data is secure and it ticks the box,” Ettling told ITWeb Africa.

“A big challenge to how cloud could grow particularly if you think of software companies like ourselves: we probably want to have one or two data centres, servicing customers like ourselves in Africa. You’re not going to build 51.

“But if legislation then doesn’t allow data from Zimbabwe or Botswana to be stored in Nigeria, it’s going to really slow down the growth.

“I think that will stifle innovation, I think that will slow down development, I think that will slow down growth in the market,” Ettling said.

Ettling said that cloud is key to helping small to medium African businesses kickstart their operations.

He also explained that markets such as South Africa have a legacy of adopting on-premise solutions for the likes of back-office functions such as HR.

But in fast-growing markets such as Nigeria and Ghana Ettling said this legacy does not exist, leaving businesses in these countries with the main option of migrating to the cloud for these functionalities.

Africa’s rapid adoption of mobile network technology has also ensured that internet usage has become more widespread, boosting the prospect of greater cloud usage.

“You’ve seen this phenomenon where Africa kind of skipped copper wire and went straight to mobile. I think African businesses are going to skip on-premise, as Africa develops, and go straight to cloud,” Ettling told ITWeb Africa.

“And I think the success of mobile has paved the infrastructure pathway for that to happen,” he said.

Ettling’s comments on Africa’s cloud market come as ITWeb Africa reported in February that SAP is certifying partners to have its first ever data centre presence in Africa.