IBM's focus on Africa finance sector bears fruit

IBM's decision to focus on Internet banking and integration with mobile devices seems to be bearing fruit as companies modernize systems across the region to pursue new revenue streams.

IBM has identified financial services, telecommunications and the public sector as areas on which to focus. The growth of connectivity in the region coupled with a lack of investment in technology has meant the region has had few legacy systems, and thus must adopt new technology to cater to growing demand.

"IBM has realized that the time for Africa is now and is using what they call analytics to identify challenges and potential efficiency gains for all the three sectors," said Stanley Kamanguya, an analyst at IDC East Africa.

IBM is supplying technology to the Senegalese and Cameroonian finance ministries, and in the financial sector, the company is upgrading systems for banks in Nigeria, Namibia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) is the latest financial institution to enter an agreement with IBM to upgrade its system, which was a mixture of manual operations and Hewlett-Packard and Sun systems. With 2 million accounts and 372 branches, CBE is the biggest in Eastern and Central Africa in terms of branch networks and is seeking to open 500 more branches in the next five years.

The value of the five-year agreement was not announced.