Cloud adoption in SA poised to generate R3.9 trillion

The Sandton Convention Centre was turned into an Innovation hub with 18 AWS pods and 46 sponsor booths. Picture: Supplied.

The Sandton Convention Centre was turned into an Innovation hub with 18 AWS pods and 46 sponsor booths. Picture: Supplied.

Published Oct 1, 2023


Johannesburg - The South African market has the potential to unlock R3.9 trillion of additional economic value over the next decade (2023-33), by accelerating the adoption of cloud computing.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) commissioned a new report quantifying the relationship between public cloud computing adoption and predicts the figure could contribute 4.05% of South Africa’s cumulative Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It’s against this backdrop that tech fundies gathered at the Sandton Convention Centre this week to explore new ways of making cloud computing more accessible and more used.

The study, performed by Telecom Advisory Services, and directed by Raul Katz, director of Business Strategy Research at the Columbia Institute for Tele-information (Columbia Business School), provides a cutting-edge econometrical method for calculating the aggregate productivity gains realised by economies that adopt cloud computing. It extends previous economic research focused on firm-level productivity by establishing cloud adoption as a driver of national productivity and economic growth.

In 2021, cloud adoption made a significant impact on the South African economy and according to the report, it contributed 0.18% to the regional GDP, generating an economic value of R14.3bn. More than 78% of this impact can be attributed to the national productivity gains or so-called “spill over effects” on the economy.

The remaining 22% is driven by cloud spending from both public and private organisations.

On average, South Africa experienced a 0.06% increase in GDP for every 1% increase in cloud penetration. It was found that South Africa has the highest economic growth due to cloud adoption in sub-Saharan Africa, with 1% increase in cloud penetration yielding 0.06% increase in GDP growth, three times more than the region’s average.

Katz said this data shows that a 10% increase in cloud penetration across the entire region, would result in economic spillover effects amounting to an estimated R71.9bn per year.

“Until recently, research on the economic impact of cloud was focused at the firm-level, understanding the microeconomic benefits associated with cloud adoption (for example, capital efficiency, contribution to product development, and the like). These studies, while valuable, did not quantify the aggregate effect of cloud on the economy in a similar way to what has been done in areas such as broadband internet. To address this gap, our team developed a state-of-the-art econometric model, leveraging global data on cloud adoption between 2014 and 2021,” he said.

General manager for sub-Saharan Africa at AWS, Amrote Abdella, said the report underscores the immense potential for South Africa, and the SSA region, to harness cloud computing and expedite economic growth.

“By increasing the current average cloud penetration, the region can unlock additional economic value. AWS is committed to supporting its customers and partners in South Africa throughout their cloud journey. We firmly believe that cloud technology will be crucial in driving innovation, boosting productivity, and scaling businesses in the region over the next decade,” he said.

The study demonstrates that the economic impact of cloud computing is guided by returns to scale – greater adoption of cloud computing will lead to proportionally greater productivity gains and economic impact. In 2021, only 34% of organisations in SA embraced cloud computing, significantly lower than the adoption rates of 49% in Western Europe and North America. Abdella added that this presents an opportunity for the country to enhance its cloud penetration and reap substantial benefits.

“With the current forecast, the economic impact of the cloud is undeniable and is poised as a key catalyst for economic prosperity. As such, it is important for businesses in the region to invest in cloud computing technology to stay competitive and boost their economic potential,” he said.

The report also identifies four key advantages of cloud computing: First, it enhances business efficiency and effectiveness, streamlining processes and improving outcomes; second, it offers access to a wide range of services, enabling businesses to leverage advanced technologies; third, it boosts productivity by facilitating collaboration, mobility, and agility within the workforce; fourth, cloud computing promotes environmental sustainability by reducing carbon emissions per unit of data transmitted.

The Saturday Star