While companies in Africa have historically been slower off the mark in using IT to automate business processes, they are fast catching up and those still relying on manual systems are no longer commonplace.

This is according to Paul Marketos, MD of Bluekey Software Solutions, who says that just seven years ago it was not uncommon to find large companies in countries such as Kenya with turnovers in excess of R60-million still using manual ledgers. Now, having automated their accounting processes, many are looking at fully-integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to improve efficiencies and profits.
Marketos attributes this to a greater availability of solutions, such as SAP Business One, which are better-geared for mid-tier enterprises.
“The ERP requirements of companies in Africa are largely consistent with those of businesses in South Africa or elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, they aren’t easily addressed by larger ERP solutions. This is due to their size, the skills level of users and the lack of locally-relevant support.
“For an ERP solution to fly in an African business, the software has got to be intuitive and user-friendly. It also has to be uncomplicated to implement and maintain. In a nutshell, it’s got to be right-sized for Africa,” says Marketos.
Marketos says that there are numerous ERP vendors operating into Africa, with no dominant player. This means that companies often grapple to find ‘on-the-ground’ support for systems, which has also put a dampener on ERP for some Africa-based companies.
“For years, many ERP vendors have serviced their customers in Africa from a distance and as a result, companies sometimes battle to find the necessary technical support for implementations, maintenance and customisations. However, this is changing as ERP becomes more widely-adopted by African businesses because vendors and consultants can justify having a presence in the region,” says Marketos, adding that Bluekey’s own success in the African region, more specifically in Kenya where it has an office, is due to its approach to up-skill and empower locally-based staff to provide high-quality support services rather than try to service customers from South Africa.
He believes that SAP Business One will become the preferred ERP solution for companies in Africa because it provides such a good fit and requires almost no maintenance.
“SAP Business One provides an excellent fit for the typical Africa-based business because it is specifically designed for small and medium sized enterprises, and because it is easily configured for varying business needs, without having to do bespoke development as is often the case with other less flexible products. Because it can be implemented ‘vanilla’ without customisations or third party applications, the complexity of the implementation is dramatically reduced and support is simplified.
“SAP Business One is extremely scalable.  We have customers with one user, and a customer with 165 users.  There is also plug-and-play integration with bigger SAP solutions such as SAP Business Suite – for African subsidiaries of multinationals running larger systems. The determining factor as to whether a company should consider one of the larger ERP solutions is the degree of business complexity required.  Large transaction volumes and user numbers can be easily accommodated by SAP Business One,” says Marketos.
A product of the world’s foremost international ERP vendor, SAP Business One has been localised so that it conforms to the legislative requirements of each country in which it is sold. It also offers multi-language support.
Marketos concludes: “With SAP Business One, companies in Africa have a ‘suit that is cut to fit the cloth’. At the same time, they get a world class solution from a reputable, credible vendor. This means they can reap the full benefits of ERP without compromise. Solutions like SAP Business One will help drive ERP adoption in Africa and ensure that it continues to fly.”