The growing importance of technology in Africa is evident in FT-Statista’s inaugural ranking of the continent’s fastest growing companies: the sector is second only to financial services in the number of companies listed.
Of the 75 companies ranked, 12% belong to the technology sector, just behind financial services, at 13%, and ahead of traditionally strong business sectors such as precious metals, at 9%, and agricultural commodities, at 8 %. .
Africa’s digital momentum was already underway before the emergence of the coronavirus in late 2019 and the ranking takes this into account, as it lists companies by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2017 and 2020. But it also captures the onset of the pandemic and the acceleration of digitization. that this caused.
In the south of the continent, the shift to digital is exemplified by the success of companies such as Entelect, an enterprise software and applications provider that offers “end-to-end technology services” to businesses.
It was founded in 2001 from the School of Electrical Engineering at Wits University in Johannesburg by Charles Pritchard, who teaches there. From its headquarters in the city, the company has grown to serve customers around the world, with offices in the Netherlands, UK, New Zealand and Australia.
Entelect is ranked 31st with a CAGR of 35.5% and revenues of $52 million in 2020.
Over the past five to ten years, his staff have seen a shift in the way companies, and especially large organizations, view technology delivery. For many companies, technology is no longer just an enabler of business processes, but also the product itself.
According to Shashi Hansjee, Managing Director of Entelect, digital technology can create both problems and opportunities. “That means the way we structure teams, projects and budgets has to change to be competitive in this way of thinking, because the market, and therefore the requirements, keep changing,” he says.
“A high level technological capacity [requires] motivated and skilled problem solvers and specialists in technology disciplines, as well as engaged stakeholders in business and product areas. Great products and systems come from great teams, not just great ideas.
Hansjee adds that the shift towards digital services and operations has accelerated during the pandemic, which has led to a significant increase in demand for technology services.
“Almost every organization now needs a digital way to interact with customers that they may not have needed two years ago,” he says. “Competition in spaces such as e-commerce has exploded, along with interest in leveraging enterprise data for analytics, reporting and product development.”
Like other companies, Entelect has also had to adapt to the rapid transition
to a work-from-home environment during the pandemic, while maintaining its culture of support for staff – especially new hires – and remaining engaged with customers.
Nigeria’s Kawai Technologies is another company that has benefited from the digital boom in Africa. The help desk company, which was founded in 2007, is eighth in the FT-Statista rankings, with a CAGR of 85.2%.
Kawai started by providing bespoke software solutions, says co-founder Akinbo Akin-Olugbade, but found it had more to offer.
“Very quickly we realized it made sense to focus on the core skills available . . . internally, which revolved around planning, flexibility and understanding the local nuances of doing business at the Nigeria,” says Akin-Olugbade, who trained as an engineer and previously worked in venture capital and as an operations manager for a fertilizer company.
In recent years, Kawai’s projects have included the provision of an all-Nigerian engineering team for a Turkish company based in the south-west of the country, and the development of an international order management system for a Nigerian oil and gas company.
Technology has remained central to Kawai’s approach throughout its growth and the company prides itself on its ability to innovate.
Today, he has a strong focus on supply chain management, covering everything from materials and production monitoring to shipping and delivery logistics.
“We built on the experience we had and started rolling out new solutions fairly quickly, which of course led to more orders, and then we had a full-fledged business,” says Akin-Olugbade.
This year Africa’s fastest growing companies is the premier African business ranking report. The rankings are compiled with data produced by the FT’s research partner, Statista. A total of 75 companies were ranked during the inaugural edition.