IBM has announced a series of investments in sub-Saharan Africa that are designed to accelerate development of new markets, enablement of crucial ICT skills and creation of new jobs.
The company, which has operated in Africa for nearly six decades, expects to increase its investment by more than $120-million (more than R820-million) over the next two years. In the coming year, IBM expects to hire up to 100 students from sub-Saharan universities to meet the growing demand in services, global delivery and software development.
“The sub-Saharan African market is poised for double-digit growth flowing from the development and expansion of telecommunications networks, power grids and transport infrastructure,” said Mark Harris, MD of IBM South and Central Africa. “Private and public sector investment in the region is transforming the ability of the market to participate in the global economy.”
Among IBM’s market commitments is the creation of an Africa Innovation Centre that will house the continent’s first High Performance On Demand Solutions Lab (HiPODS). Small businesses, entrepreneurs, business partners and other clients will benefit from the lab’s advanced software development capabilities as well as access to high-end servers and storage equipment.
The African Innovation Centre will also build custom solutions to drive automation, virtualisation and standards into clients' business and IT infrastructures.
The South Africa lab joins a global network of seven specialised IBM facilities, including sites in Brazil, China and India, as well as Japan, the UK and the US. It is scheduled to open during the second quarter of next year.
The announcement comes as part of a series of commitments by IBM to pursue sustainable growth opportunities that represent the company’s vision of providing a hand-up rather than merely a handout to spur growth.
This new strategy is a result of an extensive series of meetings on economic development opportunities in Africa recently convened by IBM as part of its annual Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) process. More than 150 global business, academic and government leaders agreed that building scientific and technical capability within Africa is one of the fundamental keys to growing its economy.
The GIO meetings inspired the following actions:
* The creation of a mentoring program, “Makocha Minds” (after the Swahili word for “teacher”), the initiative will give hundreds of African computer science, engineering and mathematics students the opportunity to advance their skills through first-hand access to the company’s IBM Fellows, Distinguished Engineers and Academy of Technology members. More than 250 IBM scientists have been enlisted to participate in the outreach, and now a number of top companies, including technologists from Cisco, Coca-Cola, and FedEx also will partner in this growing effort to elevate skills of university students at 20 African universities.
* The donation of a 14-teraflop BlueGene/P system to the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) in Cape Town, South Africa, in an effort to spark scientific and socio-economic progress in the region. The $1,5-million Blue Gene supercomputer – able to make 14-trillion floating point calculations per second – will be, by far, the most powerful supercomputer on the African continent. It will be available free-of-charge to any qualifying African institution for use on advanced scientific projects.
* An Africa Financial Grid built around a shared services and infrastructure model designed by IBM and CARE International to help microfinance institutions (MFIs) in sub-Saharan Africa dramatically lower the costs of providing financial services to previously unbanked populations in the region. The grid initiative will help reduce operating costs, streamline lending processes, scale rapidly, and integrate with other resources such as credit bureaus, financial institutions and international payment networks. The grid will also eventually be able to flexibly link with telcos or other mobile payment providers in Africa to enable customers to repay loans or carry out money transfers via mobile phones or other devices.
IBM has also named senior executive Dr Robert Mayberry as GM and vice-president: emerging markets, sub-Saharan Africa. Based in Johannesburg, Dr Mayberry is responsible for designing and executing IBM’s strategy for expanding into new markets in the region.
“Africa is an increasingly attractive investment environment for global companies such as IBM,” says Dr Mayberry. “IBM is committed to being part of Africa’s economic transformation into a major player in the global market place.”
These moves build on other recent investments IBM has made in sub-Saharan Africa, including:
* The Integrated Delivery Centre (IDC), in which IBM has invested $120-million since 2005. Through the IDC, IBM has created 1500 new jobs, and is servicing more than 300 global and regional clients from Johannesburg.
* A $15-million business continuity and recovery services facility – which has boosted IBM’s service delivery capabilities in a way unrivalled in the Sub-Saharan African region.
* IBM recently launched the Small Business Toolkit in South Africa. The goal of the free online resource is to increase the reach of local small business into the global economy by improving the productivity, efficiency and capacity of the estimated 600 000 active small businesses in South Africa as well as improve their access to capital and new markets.
* IBM currently has a formal university partnerships and training programmes with Vaal University of Technology and Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa, yielding jobs for more than 180 IT graduates.
In addition to its the South African offices, IBM maintains offices in Nigeria and Kenya, and operates in 18 other countries across the continent via business partners.