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Cloud computing in Africa

- 22 May 2018

Cloud computing has increasingly become a staple of modern business. For those who wish to leverage the cloud in Africa, certain regulatory and practical issues need to be considered.

The proliferation of low-cost bandwidth and cloud storage solutions in Africa has led to an increased reliance on adoption of these solutions by African countries. Many considerations arising in the Africa cloud industry are shared by our foreign counter-parts: issues pertaining to data security, confidentiality and data ownership do not differ significantly between Africa, America and Europe.

However, Africa's geography and rapidly evolving legislative environment have led to the emergence of Africa-specific issues in the context of cloud computing, says Karl Blom, associate at Webber Wentzel.

Compliance with local laws

African countries have rapidly sought to address the protection of personal information of their citizens. While such practices are often welcomed (particularly by consumers), there is presently a lack of harmony between many of these laws, resulting in practical difficulties for a company to achieve compliance across all of its operations in Africa.

For example, a company seeking to process information in the cloud must consider whether a particular jurisdiction restricts (or outright prohibits) the transfer of personal information across its borders, whether its data protection laws protect the personal information of juristic persons (such as companies and trusts) and whether the relevant data protection authority may impose criminal and/or civil sanctions.

The cost implications of a private-cloud versus a public-cloud deployment may be significant and should be borne in mind when considering a cloud solution in Africa.

Infrastructure and service levels

Demand for cloud computing services has increased significantly in Africa, and, as a consequence, an increased need for bandwidth has emerged. While service levels are an oft-negotiated point in any jurisdiction, those seeking to operate in Africa must be mindful of the technical capabilities of their cloud service provider, as well as their ability to leverage in-country resources (especially where restrictions on cross-border data processing applies).

In this regard, clauses relating to service levels (in particular, service uptime) as well as third party sub-contractors (who may be based in a different jurisdiction) must be reviewed to ensure service continuity and performance is preserved.

Concluding remarks

The benefits of a cloud solution will always depend on the underlying business case. While legal issues may introduce additional complexities to cloud deployments across Africa, these should not be considered as show-stoppers if they are addressed from the outset.