As the most populated country in Africa, Nigeria must ensure that it is at the cutting edge of technology. Rowen Grierson, Regional Director West, East and Central Africa at Nutanix, tells Intelligent CIO how the country is evolving and the work the company is doing there.
Can you explain the work that you do in Nigeria?
I’m the Regional Director for West, East and Central Africa responsible for building Nutanix’s strategy and go to market across these regions. This includes identifying new growth opportunities, understanding the market dynamic, matching partners to end users and creating a broader understanding of Nutanix and our unique brand of hyperconvergence and virtualisation among customers in these areas.
Where do you see the technology landscape in Nigeria and how has it changed?
The Nigerian technology landscape is evolving rapidly, it is not just an enterprise market demanding an enterprise solution for a business need, we are also starting to see small businesses looking to leverage what can be deemed tradition or legacy computing technologies for their business functions. At the same time, large business is looking to scale up and innovate.
That said, there is however a stall or lag among customers in their ability to make use of or leverage emerging technology for true innovation. But that is by no fault of the customer. It is a problem that the IT industry itself is creating as it they aren’t connecting technology priorities to business outcomes as effectively as they should.
As a technology vendor, there is an opportunity for us. The gaps that many OEMs and software companies are creating by failing to connect these priorities and opens up the market for companies who are able to create the link between technology and business. As with much of Africa, companies too often see them as the last part of the revenue link – so instead of prioritising the region (like we do at Nutanix), many customers are fumbling along trying to find the answers themselves.
The market is hungry though and they want innovation. They want the cloud, they want to be secure and they want to mobilise their data assets. Personally, I am working with my customers and partners on the ground to change the perception of IT from a negative perception to a positive one – where we evangelise our messaging and value proposition into the market.
What trends are you witnessing?
The rise of the startup culture in Nigeria is absolutely incredible and the energy among these smaller businesses is palpable. I also see a growing number of developers among tech professionals, particularly as companies are looking towards a more application-centric future.
This is all supported by growing cloud adoption amongbusiness, particularly with regards to a growing demand for Software-as-a-Service solutions and developer tools in the cloud. All of this is then feeding into the megatrends, such as DevOps, Data Analytics and a need for Machine Learning (ML) which is all on the rise. It would be remiss of anyone to think Nigeria is just another African country – they are as hungry for new tech as any of the big multi-nationals.
Can you go into detail about the current the infrastructure and connectivity in Nigeria?
National infrastructure is still lacking in the country, that is not something we can overlook, and the cost of 24/7 power supply and connectivity/data remains high. Bearing in mind that the country’s power supply itself is not consistent.
Most last mile connectivity options are wireless with only the large enterprises being able to afford MPLS and fibre connections. This is a problem, as connectivity is seen as a deterrent or inhibitor to onboarding new technology. It has also stalled the adoption of technologies such as VDI and remote application delivery technologies. But again, where there are challenges there is opportunity, and personally I see an opportunity for SD-WAN providers in this space.
Are there any specific projects that you have been involved in recently in Nigeria that you can talk about?
Yes, our message is resonating extremely well in the market due to our fresh approach of not just ‘shifting tin’ but focusing on providing customers with a platform that makes the underlying infrastructure invisible and focusses on running applications where they are best suited from a costs, performance and efficiency perspective. Remember some customers in Africa haven’t even virtualised yet, this makes leapfrog technologies like hyperconvergence and web-scale approaches very attractive to them.
We don’t fixate on the where, we have customers in Nigeria where we are assisting with their own environment (data centre) as well as helping to consolidate their workloads across different public cloud environments.
We’ve recently landed one of only a few G2K customers in the entire West, East and Central Africa region. This is an exceptionally exciting win for Nutanix and a project that will showcase the true value that we can provide, especially from both a technical and business perspective. Our mandate from the client is to better enable business using technology and the client will be running all of their core applications on our platform – something we are already delivering on.
Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa. Do you think it can cater for the demand in terms of IT?
Yes, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa, it is also one of the fastest growing populations in the world. With this comes a growing number of banks, service providers and fintechs pushing new services into the market to try and grab market share from a young, tech hungry population.
There are also many exciting projects and developments happening that are designed to boost the economy. This includes the building of a new oil refinery just outside of Lagos that will allow Nigeria to refine their own oil (planned to be opened at the end of 2020 to eventually refine 650,000 barrels per day). So, everywhere you look there is growth, promise and opportunity.
This coupled, with its appetite for technology as a solution to its many socio-economic challenges, highlights that Nigeria is ready for a technology challenge. Its government is also looking to better retain and develop IT skills where it can, as well as invest in technologies, like Nutanix that don’t require exhaustive IT skills to deploy, manage and maintain.