Cloud-literate employees are increasingly needed across every industry. In an exclusive interview, Amazon Web Services’ commercial sales lead for sub-Saharan Africa tells us how they want to fast-track this objective. And the one area the company is focused on is startups.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud computing platform, has its eye on Africa. The company recently opened its first international skills center in Cape Town in a strategic move to upskill local cloud talent. Cape Town is not only AWS’ third skill center but the first to be built outside of North America.
“South Africa is a country close and dear to our hearts. It’s where we started our engineering center back in 2004 and our region investments – it has always been our first entry into Africa,” says Amrote Abdella, AWS’ sub-Saharan Africa’s commercial sales lead, in an exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA.
In 2020, AWS launched the Cape Town region with three local availability zones. “This was when we started to really look at how we could fast-track this cloud transformation that was starting to take off across sub-Saharan Africa,” she says. “In September 2022, we launched our AWS Nigeria local presence… Nigeria now has the largest GDP in Africa and you have to look at the cloud adoption rate and other investments being made into the market. We see an opportunity to not just be a partner, but lead the way in how we’re driving investments into the market.”
The one area AWS is focused on is startups. Africa is home to many thriving fintech startups and the company is looking to grow that number exponentially, recently launching its first, equity-free accelerator. The initial cohort includes startups from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Egypt and South Africa.
“Innovation is something that despite of the challenges that we’ve had, we’ve had to accelerate on. If you think about fintech and mobile payments and where we are now (and where we have been), the African startups that are really getting traction are the ones addressing real challenges,” she says. About trying to force solutions that work in the western world into African, she adds: “Our realities are different.”
Build locally, export globally
For Abdella, the idea of creating African solutions for African problems works, but it is only the first step. “How about we build locally and export globally?” she asks. “We’re now seeing customers that are not only building solutions with a multicultural presence in Africa, but globally as well.
“By investing in infrastructure, we are making sure we create the platform for innovators and developers to start building. The AWS Skills Centre is the beginning of what it means to be able to provide these tools and services so as Africans, we can start competing but also have access to the opportunities.”
In 2020, Amazon shared the goal that they would help 29 million people worldwide grow their tech skills with free cloud computing skills training by 2025. Since 2017, the cloud giant has trained over 100,000 people in South Africa and are hoping the new skills center will remove barriers to access by offering free and interacting training.
“As an African working in Africa, it’s our responsibility. If not me, it’s you. If not you, then who?” asks Abdella. “If we want to really be able to deliver on Africa’s potential, we have to start with our people. We have to start building capabilities and we have to be able to get to a point, from a competitiveness perspective, deliver African world-class solutions.”