Building a Digital Native Business in Africa – collaborating to achieve a business evolution

Native Digital Business


In a COVID world, consumer expectations, remote working and the highly competitive environment demand ever more speed and flexibility from business. Tackling these challenges, particularly in Africa, requires new ways of working and Digital Natives, companies built using cloud infrastructure from their inception, have a huge advantage over competitors burdened with legacy infrastructure. To start digital however, is not enough. To take full advantage of the opportunities available, Digital Natives must collaborate to remain competitive and adaptable, provide a rapid and transparent service to consumers and appropriately judge and respond to risk.

Last month Simon Tobelem, our CEO at ACBM sat on a panel alongside Digicloud and DotModus, hosted by Google Cloud to discuss how it is possible to build a Digital native Business in Africa, rapidly and with limited resources.

ACBM was involved to tell our story. Working alongside our partners Digicloud and DotModus we have built a fully regulated digital bank registered in Africa in just 18 months in a heavily regulated and complex industry. This is also the first time a bank has been built using Google technology.

Starting as a Digital Native allowed ACBM to achieve its goal of building a seamless, cost efficient, fast and responsive system. This allows clients to work whenever and wherever they want and have their transactions executed immediately – a huge challenge in Africa. ACBM’s platform built on the Google Cloud, demonstrates several of the opportunities presented by becoming a Digital Native: cost efficiency, speed, flexibility and with minimal infrastructure, the ability to be borderless and operate free from time zones.

Companies built through the flexibility and innovation of the cloud from the outset have reduced reliance on physical infrastructure and more tools at their disposal to enable seamless collaboration. This is a huge advantage, particularly across Africa where traditional businesses are hamstrung by physical, legacy infrastructure and the difficulties caused by the tax, legal and other barriers that limit business on the continent.

For the customer, Digital Natives offer just as many benefits, including faster service, greater product innovation, increased transparency and access to information, and an improved experience. By implementing automated systems, ACBM has introduced advanced automated KYC systems and validation of financial statements. Creating this reliable information has improved our customer’s data integrity and their ability to deal with counterparties across the world. This has been especially effective in removing the hurdle of low credibility unfortunately faced by many African businesses.

The interoperability enabled by being Digital Native has allowed ACBM to partner with other companies and offer customers a wider range of complimentary third-party products and services. ACBM has built an ecosystem of services and solutions which helps customers not only with banking needs but also with other areas of their finances. For example, a customer’s accounting information can be linked with ACBM system through APIs, allowing them to access all their financial information from one comprehensive dashboard.

Collaboration and interaction with other companies and technologies is another great opportunity. Partnering with software engineering firm DotModus and Digicloud, Africa’s Google cloud distributor, ACBM has developed and continuously improved its adaptable digital infrastructure. Our core architecture is like Lego, it is modular in nature and can change swiftly to access the best services available in the market, to meet the needs of our customers and meet new regulation.

As our journey has shown, the ability to utilise different technologies through partnerships has allowed for the rapid development of the business. Collaboration for digital natives also allows for these businesses to focus on their strengths whilst bringing in partners to help in other areas. Building technology from scratch takes longer and won’t allow for compatibility with others’ technology. Keeping core technology within your system to a minimum also allows for greater flexibility. From our perspective, taking this open approach has enabled us to build a bank able to operate and grow solely on the cloud from its inception.

Building a successful Digital Native business however requires more than a focus on technology, it’s about the culture and outlook of the business. For example, fostering a respect for customer’s data and the security of the business as a whole is essential. Collaborative digital systems open businesses up to risks in the form of attacks, both on the system and on customer information. Fortunately, tools to protect data are becoming easier to adopt. Further, maintaining the human element is vital and ACBM’s customers are able to easily and quickly speak to our advisors for help and advice on a wide range of financial matters.

Native Digital offers rapid, low-cost development, borderless reach, endless possibilities for collaboration and greater flexibility. We believe this is a significant evolution with opportunities for business globally and in Africa in particular. Partnering is key to reaping the rewards and securing against new risks. So too is developing the right culture and making decisions on which physical infrastructure is essential. With the right approach, Digital Natives can continuously develop to provide customers an improved experience.

For more information about ACBM and what it can do for you please get in touch.