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[Interview] We’re deploying Cloud-based solutions for African organizations, Incentro Africa CEO

Incentro is only Google Premier Partner in the region


Dennis De Weerd is the CEO at Incentro Africa, an IT service provider delivering custom build cloud-based software solutions for the European and African market.

Kindly introduce Incentro

Incentro is an IT services provider with offices in the Netherlands, Spain and Kenya. Incentro Africa delivers high-quality custom build cloud-based software solutions for the European and African market. With Dutch development standards and close collaboration with the Fair Trade Software Foundation, we deliver software solutions that both impact our customers and staff. We are founded on the ambitions to make CSR more core of what we do and therefore we always look to apply our unique skills to build software solutions that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

As the only Google Premier Partner in the region, we support organizations across the African continent to work effectively from wherever they are. Especially relevant these days. We do this by deploying Cloud-based solutions like Google Workspace, Chromebooks and Cloud infrastructure. From migration from local data centers to Cloud to the development of cloud-native applications, Google Cloud is our tool of choice and we are incredibly proud to call ourselves the only Work transformation enterprise specialist on the continent.

The demand for cloud services is growing rapidly in Africa. How would you describe this growth?

With increasing connectivity and availability of reliable and cheap internet across the continent, it has changed the way people work. Cloud is a leapfrog technology, comparable to the introduction of the mobile phone and we are just at the beginning of it. Especially now the pandemic we’ve seen a major uptake in the use of cloud-based solutions, by even the most traditional companies.

Let me give you some examples to demonstrate what I’m talking about:  For instance, we migrated the Central Bank of West African States to Google Cloud based productivity suite Workspace in less than a week when a lockdown was looming. From working with traditional infrastructure from a central office to a highly secure cloud-based productivity suite that allowed their staff to work from home and boost their productivity with easy to use tools. So there are a few drivers here that boosted the uptake, but it was already unavoidable that this new way of working is the standard. Let me give you another one. Consider your startup, you want to offer a new service in a traditional industry. Let’s say you are a fintech, offering quick and reliable credit scores for smallholder farmers.

Are you going to invest and buy a server, even when you don’t have customers yet and you are stressed for funding? Are you going to create extensive scoring algorithms or prefer to train an AI model? Right, you’d choose to go for a cloud-based solution that offers you a pay per use model, is available right away, limitlessly scalable and offers all the great technology with the click of a button. But it’s not only for start-ups. Let say you are a large enterprise running SAP on your on premise infrastructure. You need to procure the hardware and software, maintain the services and facility and know-how to support your staff and keep the environments secure. Let’s say you are a large retailer, selling through stores and online. You’d need to provision your hardware for the projected performance you need for multiple years and take peak loads into account. For instance for black Friday or back to school campaigns. But most of the time the hardware is just sitting there ideally, no one is buying during the night time hours. Now put this in the cloud, you just pay for what you use, optimize to make sure you don’t use any resources at night and scale to manage that peak load on black Friday.

These are just a few examples of the power of the cloud. So the trend we’ve seen in the US and Europe can be seen in Africa as well. It’s a leapfrog technology that allows organisations to deliver high performance as little costs and overhead. It keeps organisations lean and those companies that understand this, and of course it is mostly digital natives, are able to disrupt traditional markets and industries by delighting customers with new services. Completely changing the game and leaving big, slow enterprises behind.

African cloud computing market is generating a lot of interest and deals. Players like Incentro are positioning themselves for the boom in data services on the continent. What does this mean for companies like yours?

For us it means we are substantially investing in technical knowledge and growing our team of certified Cloud consultants rapidly so we are ready when it does. It’s good to understand that when we started in Kenya there were no certified Google Cloud Architects in the whole country, so in order to offer this service, we need to train and certify talented technical consultants to do this work.

But it is not only about being able to do the work, it’s also important to educate the market. To date, most companies have no cloud strategy and there’s a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation of local regulations and a general lack of knowledge of cloud. So we invest heavily in the growth of not only our technical team but also a commercial team that is able to educate the market in the value proposition of cloud services.

Though we started early we see things are moving now. When we started our cloud proposition over 2 years ago, there was little demand, but the pandemic has accelerated this in many cases, though we expect the big uptake to take place from late 2021 and 2022. It is only when these digital strategies start to include cloud strategy and procurement teams understand how to procure for cloud that this will happen. We have seen this explosive, accelerating uptake in cloud services in the European market where the cloud market is projected to triple from >$25B in 2018 to <$75B in 2026.

Why is there a need for African businesses to migrate to the cloud?

It depends on the organisation. As mentioned in my previous examples there are different motivations for the different companies, but overall we see most of our customers make the move because it is more secure, scalable and more affordable. Large enterprises unburden their IT department from maintaining infrastructure and enable them to contribute to business goals. For startups, it’s a cheap and convenient way to get started and use amazing technology that is only available on the Cloud.

What are some of your success stories as Incentro?

Last year, we received a call from the Central Bank of West African States, responsible for the economy of 8 countries in West Africa. Their traditional infrastructure didn’t allow them to work from home and with a pending lockdown, they needed a solution, quick. We’ve been able to migrate and onboard them in less than a week’s time. This story even made it to Forbes Africa magazine and we are incredibly proud to have been the ones that made this happen.

Another story we are very proud of is the one of Text Book Centre. They had been conflicted between choosing from renewing their on-premise hardware or choosing to go to cloud to run their company critically software. When the pandemic hit, the choice became obvious. Getting hardware in, sending people to maintain your data center, deliver high performance for a distributed workforce, being scalable (up and down) in uncertain times. All no brainers to choose for cloud over on-premise. Of course it is scary to take that leap and transition your core systems to Cloud.

“This was the most seamless digital transition I have experienced.”- Armand Houhau, MD Text Book Centre told us.

What makes your services stand out?

In the market, we sadly see a lot of resellers. Just pushing licences, without understanding the product or service they are offering. Incentro has 25+ years of experience as IT consultants and it’s in our nature. We focus on high-quality services, delivered by trained and certified professionals. From sales, through technical consultants to our 24/7 support team. We understand that Workspace and Cloud services are just tools that help your business to succeed. But only when applied well. Therefore we invest a lot in understanding our clients and coming up with tailor-made workshops, training and change management programs, etc. Adoption is key for us. We use our extensive experience to deliver this unique service to our customers, which are currently in 26 countries in Africa. By being the only Google Premier Partner in East Africa and the only Work transformation enterprise specialists on the continent we are awarded by Google for the impact we make on our clients.

When you receive such amazing feedback after migration, you can only be very proud of your team that made this possible.

Who are some of your cloud partners and which customers you work with?

We work exclusively with Google Cloud. Their global infrastructure, completely designed and owned by Google has no equal. Did you know that ⅓ of all internet traffic flows through the Google network? Where other cloud providers are a patchwork of different data centres and ISP’s, each Google data centre is designed and built by Google to deliver great performance. Together with very competitive prices, unique services and product offerings, we decided that Google Cloud is our tool of choice and invest heavily in understanding every detail and ability of it. Google is one of the major 3 global Cloud providers. Though it might be the best-kept secret in the African market, for now.

Any latest news from your company?

In December our technical team in Kenya worked amazingly hard to build a platform for Dutch people to celebrate New Year’s Eve from home. With 250+ artists joining in by offering live streams we have been able to reach +650k people that joined in on new year’s eve to celebrate New Year together. Built in about 3.5 weeks by a small team, of course using Google Cloud. Intense, but fun and very rewarding to work on.

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I write about tech, business and African startups. Founder and Editor For TechTrendsKE. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to nkanali@techtrendske.co.ke.
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