Over the past decade, technology penetration in Africa has grown considerably. Such is the speed of the development that Africa skipped landlines and went straight to mobile technology. “There were very few households with landlines when I was growing up,” says Victor Taiwo, CEO of Afrissance Digital. “However, with the jump to 3G, 4G and 5G in Africa, it means we’ve been able to implement more technology-based solutions. Mobile money has been introduced because the technology now exists via mobile apps. Hosting your data in the cloud wouldn’t have existed several years ago, but now we’re seeing companies in Africa embrace these new solutions. Firms such as Oracle are pushing for cloud and now offer predominantly cloud-based solutions.” 

Having looked at the landscape in Africa and observing how businesses were implementing ERP solutions, Taiwo identified a gap in how the consulting industry addressed African business needs. “This led me to establish a consulting company, utilising indigenous people who are first and foremost steeped in the African culture and ultimately take a different approach to addressing business needs,” explains Taiwo. “We were careful to make sure our leadership team comprises of executives who are experts in their respective areas to help guide us. It’s a key reason why we have leaders from both the consulting profession and from our industry on our Board of Directors.” 

As with any successful consulting company, meeting client demands is essential. To maintain that drive, Taiwo insists on a robust and continuous improvement strategy. “We’re a young company and uniquely placed to be pioneers of this new digital era,” says Taiwo. “By focusing on digital solutions for business, it allows us to dig deep into their operations in order to understand the best way to deliver the business solution. With our understanding of our clients’ business, we don't only address the configuration of applications, we focus on the business transformation that the solutions facilitate. As we develop, we continue to learn more about how to drive the customer towards those value-adding solutions.” 

New technologies such as machine learning (ML) and automation have created greater efficiency for many companies. ML is key in helping ERP solutions to better comprehend patterns and trends, helping businesses find ways to generate more value out of their data. “For example, when you submit an expense, it knows how to put it in the right category based on previous patterns” he explains. “We capture a lot of data in the ERP space, previously we only used data for financial and management reporting. Now, we have the tools to build analytics that drive insights using data from disparate systems.” With data considered a core component to Afrissance’s strategy, Taiwo affirms the customer always remains at the heart of decision-making. “The most important thing to us is understanding the customer. In the UK, you expect everyone to have a bank account and a mobile device to do internet banking, but this isn’t the case in Africa,” explains Taiwo. “However, mobile money is growing in Africa. Technology such as using a mobile number as a bank account to pay each other has empowered the people of Africa to start using mobile money. Despite the lack of computer penetration, the simplicity of applications delivered to Africa are much more user-friendly than in Europe.”

With long-term ambitions of becoming Africa’s foremost indigenous consulting organisation, Taiwo has his sights aimed high. “In 2018, I said that our aim was to gain industry recognition for our innovative approach to solution delivery,” says Taiwo. “To achieve this plan, we must lay the foundations and put the right culture and ethics in place. It’s important to start small and understand that it’s a journey. We did exactly that; we started with five graduate trainees and have grown from there. It allowed us to focus our energies on our development and enabled them to become mentors and leaders. Now, they are passing on their knowledge to newer members of the team and you can see we are growing significantly. We are on track with our plan.”

Afrissance centres operations around six corporate values. These are: courage, context, character, culture, consistency and competence. “These values are very much central to what we are as an organisation and represents what our clients can expect from us in every engagement and assignment that we undertake,” says Taiwo. “Another C we’re adding is commitment which we demonstrate daily through our investment in continuous training and by our recent investment in dedicated fully equipped new office space in the heart of the Lagos business district.”

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Collaboration and partnership are key pillars of Taiwo’s strategy, with Afrissance forging a key strategic alliance with Lonestar Cell MTN. The company became Afrissance’s success story of 2019 and emboldened them to the challenges that lie ahead. “We implemented a full NetSuite ERP and Point of Sale solution for Lonestar Cell MTN, in four months, with the bulk of the work conducted by our graduate consultants, who had at that time no more than 14 months experience. This is where we first met Titilope Fakuade, CIO, and Kingsley Konadu, former CFO, whose vision for Lonestar Cell MTN Liberia we were delighted to help realise.”

Looking to the future, Taiwo has a clear vision of what he expects the next few years at Afrissance to look like. “Everything we do is born in the cloud, and we’re pushing that agenda because we believe it’s the future. You don’t own all the apps on your mobile phone, you just use them. Some you pay for and some are free. That's where I see the enterprise market moving in the next few years.” Some aspects of the current landscape in Africa are unfavourable towards cloud-based solutions due to concerns around data residency and data security, however, Taiwo sees the tide of legislation in Africa beginning to soften and expects the implementation of cloud solutions to become more prominent in the region. “It means we can champion software as a service (SaaS),” explains Victor. “It also allows us to work more remotely because it’s in the cloud and everyone can access it at the same time. The next two or three years are all about cloud penetration. It’s already started in the more developed economies of the world and, as the legislation continues to allow, we’re going to see more penetration in Africa. It will also allow more linearity between Europe and Africa because it means we’re all working off the same solution.”

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