As Africa continues its digital journey, digital transactions will continue to embed themselves as a necessary tool for economic growth. In fact, since 2014, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reported that the number of online shoppers in Africa surged annually by a substantial 18%. With the addition of money transfers, ecommerce, subscription services and online banking to the online environment, digital transactions are becoming the glue that holds the African economy together.
Yet, behind the scenes of this new digital transaction economy, what often goes unappreciated are the hard-working tech companies that make this all possible. Companies like Africa's own financial software provider Oltranz, which develops state-of-the-art mobile money payments solutions that consistently push the boundaries of possibility. Oltranz operates in Rwanda, the DRC and Ghana.
By developing end-to-end gateways (SMS, USSD, mobile and bank), Oltranz allows transactions to reach any user on any network, transferring funds to a merchant's bank account in real time. For example, its strong USSD gateway processes millions of transaction a year – and growing.
In Oltranz's own words, they turn "the world's most advanced technologies into better lives for all Africans."
But, technically speaking, how do they do this? Oltranz's SMS gateways enable merchants to effortlessly send bulk SMSes to telcos, while its payment gateway is composed of a mobile and bank gateway, enabling safe, instant transfers between banks and telcos - in both directions.
But, to reach the numbers they currently serve, the founders of Oltranz knew that they needed to enlist the support of the world's best cloud infrastructure. Advanced service offerings such as Oltranz offers require advanced IT solutions.
Andy Tuna Hussein, CEO of Oltranz, says Oltranz's infrastructure setup – which needed to provide scalable solutions – was their biggest challenge. This challenge became a lot simpler when they found Amazon Web Services (AWS).
"AWS Managed Services helped us have scalable infrastructure that allows our software to handle large volumes of requests," says Hussein. "They are a leader in the cloud market, and the managed services AWS provides has no rival on the market at the moment."
AWS Managed Services automates common activities, such as change requests, monitoring, patch management, security, and backup services, and provides full lifecycle services to provision, run, and support organisations' infrastructure.
By implementing best practices to maintain the infrastructure of its customers, AWS Managed Services also reduces operational overhead and risk, which Hussein says has provided much needed stability when request loads are high.
At the moment, Oltranz is making use of Amazon EC2, Amazon DMS, Amazon Relational Databases, AWS VPC, as well as AWS OpenVPN.
It took just two weeks to deploy AWS's technology, says Hussein. "The fastest we have seen ever experienced," he notes.
Recently, the company implemented Amazon Load Balancer, which automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets, such as Amazon EC2 instances, containers, IP addresses, and Lambda functions. It can also handle the varying load of application traffic in a single Availability Zone or across multiple Availability Zones.
The load balancer then monitors the health of its registered targets and routes traffic only to healthy targets. When the load balancer detects an unhealthy target, it stops routing traffic to that target. It then resumes routing traffic to that target when it detects that the target is healthy again.
According to Hussein, these services have allowed Oltranz to support large activity volumes, adding that the company is now realising increased revenues and credibility – while requiring less technical support.
Ultimately, scalable infrastructure on AWS has allowed the company's end-users to handle large amount of transactions. "Working with AWS provides us with capabilities that no other actor in our segment can provide. This gives us an edge on our competitors since clients are beginning to understand that only Oltranz can provide them with a scalable solution," concludes Hussein.