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Bridging the new digital divide for small businesses across East Africa

By Alexis Kabeja
On 4 August 2021 at 03:31

The 2020 World Bank Doing Business report shows the overall business climate in sub-Saharan Africa is steadily improving with one percent increase over last year.

Countries across the continent have implemented over 70 reforms in policy and regulation to remove certain constraints to small businesses. Despite the positive outlook, the ease of doing business scored at 51.8, below the global average of 63.0, which indicates that sub-Saharan Africa is still classified as one of the weak performing regions overall.

Small businesses continue to battle with challenges revolving around formal business infrastructure, technology adoption, digital innovation, connectivity, policy and regulation among other constraints.

While Africa has seen the world’s highest rate of increase in internet use and connectivity, with internet users increasing from 4.5 million to 523 million in two decades, the pandemic has pushed small businesses to speed up their digital transformations to better equip them to manage employees that are working away from centralised locations.

According to the latest Digital Intelligence Index, Kenya ranked top within the region in digital growth and demand, followed by Rwanda and Tanzania. The three countries are categorised as “Break Out” economies for evolving rapidly and their significant growth. Growth in internet penetration, improved infrastructure and more young people who are digitally savvy are some of the factors that made Kenya and Rwanda more attractive to investors. For small and medium businesses in East Africa, the pandemic sparked an informal shift to remote work and an immediate need for solutions to work-from-home restrictions.

However, as the initial era of “remote everything” has given way to durable, hybrid models of work and learning, we have entered a new digital age that is completely transforming how we work and learn—today and for the next decade. To connect, collaborate, and create in this new way of working —whether that be at home, school, or in the office — there is a need to bridge the new divide between large organisations and small businesses.

In general, small businesses across East African countries lack the resources and the IT expertise to manage their technology solutions in house. There is a need for digital solutions that are simple and sustainable to maintain that form flexible, collaborative, and scalable outputs for small businesses and their work force.

With over 120 million users across the globe, Office 365 is one of the most popular software platforms on the African market, making it possible for small businesses to move towards having the right digital tools to promote flexible and scalable ways of working. The platform provides businesses of all sizes with access to familiar Office applications such as email, calendar, video conferencing, and up-to-date document sharing, all optimised to give the best experience across virtually any internet-connected device – from PCs to smartphones to tablets. With the advent of the cloud and Office 365 offerings, SMEs can access many of the same technologies as giant multinational companies. This allows for small businesses to move away from the informal ways of working to connect with a digital work ecosystem that is more effective and collaborative.

Caught in the cradle of information and communication technology, East Africa, as well as the world, has lost its traditional business boundaries, and the very way businesses operate is changing. Thankfully, through Liquid Intelligent Technologies fast and more affordable connectivity, Office 365 has become more accessible, which enhances small businesses potential and enables startups and home-grown operations to be more productive and efficient. Leveraging Liquid Intelligent Technologies low latency, high capacity, resilient infrastructure, Office 365 extends Liquid Intelligent Technologies position as the connectivity partner across the region, creating solutions that are simple for small businesses to adopt.

As Liquid Intelligent Technologies strives to support the digital transformation journey of organisations and enterprises of all sizes across the region, it also continues to drive innovation and expand into new geographies to empower more small businesses with Office 365, the world’s leading cloud-based productivity solution.

About the author

Alexis Kabeja is the Chief Executive Officer of Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Rwanda.

Alexis is CEO at Liquid Intelligent Technologies Rwanda. Since 2016, he has since helped establish the company as the country’s leading Internet Service Provider (ISP). Alexis has held a number of senior management positions at telecoms companies.

Prior to joining Liquid Intelligent Technologies Rwanda, he was the Country Operations Manager at Ericsson Rwanda and the Network Operations Manager at Airtel Rwanda, where he was part of the team which launched Airtel Rwanda operations, as a greenfield network.

COVID-19 pandemic has pushed small businesses to speed up their digital transformations to better equip them to manage employees that are working away from centralised locations.

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