ZAMBIA’S Small to Medium Enterprise (SMEs) sector plays a vital role in the country’s economic and societal growth. According to a 2020 report by the International Trade Centre, SMEs represent 97% of all business in Zambia, 70% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 88% of all employment. They also employ a large portion of the country’s vulnerable workforce. As a result, Zambian SMEs are one of the African continent’s success stories contributing to the country’s socio-economic growth.
Zambian SMEs have immense potential that is not being realised, and it is time for them to leapfrog to the next phase of their evolution in the journey towards success. And, adopting the right technologies will allow them to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution fundamentally transforming how they operate and deliver value to their customers.
Embracing The Cloud
The first move would be adopting cloud-based services, which offer many benefits, including smarter and more streamlined services. Cloud services can lower costs, increase productivity, provide improved security, and give more control to both employers and employees, whether working in an office or remotely.
Moving to the cloud simplifies software management for SMEs. It does away with the need to buy software that requires several licenses (depending on employee numbers), hardware, and the associated headache that comes with security aspects and data migration. Instead, it offers a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, where applications are hosted in the cloud, and the service provider manages the upgrades, security and updates. SMEs that need raw computing power and hardware – such as data servers, storage, and computing power – can also purchase Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from cloud services providers.
Adopting cloud-based computing services drives down business costs and reduces employee workloads, allowing increased flexibility. For example, SaaS’s a-la-carte model – in which SMEs only pay for the services they want and the ability to pay upfront every month can save and help save significant funds, which it can then use to expand the business.
Flexibility and Security
Cloud services are also scalable, which means SMEs that use them are better placed to navigate financial peaks and troughs over time. For example, the last two years severely impacted local SMEs, highlighting the importance of the flexibility of this pay-as-you-go model offered by the cloud. In addition, they allow SMEs to plan for potential growth in terms of the size of the employment pool they’ll require. Finally, since Infrastructure and services are hosted off-site, migrating to the cloud is a boon to businesses with employees working remotely or embracing a hybrid working model.
SMEs need to invest in cyber security measures to mitigate hacking attempts on their business – secure email and access, anti-virus software, and the like – which many cloud services providers can offer as part of the package. It is a folly to think that malicious entities will not target them due to their small size, but this mindset has made them primary targets.
A business’s online presence (be it an online portal for information, registration for events, or e-commerce), corporate email, and servers can also be hosted in the cloud and managed by whichever cloud provider they choose. Many cloud service providers offer packages that cover all these requirements and have cost-effective, stable and easier access than their on-premise counterparts.
Harnessing Cloud Power for Growth
SMEs in Zambia are in an ideal position to benefit from cloud services, as is the country, through the economic growth and job creation stimulated by an expanding, more productive SME sector. Cloud service can improve an SME’s productivity and access to global markets by dramatically reducing costs and using state-of-the-art technology and IT infrastructure. By embracing new technologies, Zambian SMEs have vast potential to grow and expand their operations and profits. By doing so, they could one day find themselves rubbing shoulders with global giants who began the same way.
Skuko Chunga is the Head of Cloud and Cyber Security, Liquid Intelligent Technologies Zambia.
Credit: Zambia Daily Mail