SAP plans big investment to boost its business in Africa

Industry-specific software, support for entrepreneurs and additional training programs are on tap for Africa

SAP is planning to spend up to US$500 million in Africa from now through 2020 in hopes of dramatically growing its business on the continent, particularly in countries outside of South Africa, where it already has a strong base.

"In Africa, we plan to engage and invest in even more markets while helping build the appropriate talent base for the IT industry," said Robert Enslin, SAP executive board member and global sales chief, in a statement released Tuesday.

The growth plan announced Tuesday includes a focus on selling specialized software for telecommunications, financial services, utilities and other verticals in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Angola and Morocco.

SAP also intends to push its newest products, such as the Hana in-memory computing platform and cloud applications, into African markets. This task will be made easier by the fact that many companies there may not have ample existing IT infrastructure that would need to be displaced, SAP said.

Kenya has been chosen to be part of SAP's Emerging Entrepreneur Initiative. This program offers business development help, mentoring by SAP staff, grants and other benefits to selected entrepreneurs.

Finally, SAP is planning to launch new skills training programs in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Angola.

Going forward, SAP will have operations in 51 African nations. There are now 700 SAP employees working in Africa, and the company intends to hire another 250 by the end of 2015.

Overall, getting more African workers familiar with how to not only sell, but configure and develop extensions to SAP's products is crucial to the vendor's growth hopes there.

SAP sells business software suites in various configurations based on a company's size. As has been the case in other emerging markets, SAP's Business One product for smaller companies will likely be an increasingly popular choice in Africa. Business One, unlike other products in SAP's catalog, is sold exclusively through partners around the world, who serve as a customer's main point of contact and customize the software to meet their needs.

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