Fernridge disrupts the retail industry with Azure

By utilising the powerful capabilities of Azure, an SME disrupted the African retail industry through the innovation of an application called Africa Eye that gathers critical data and enables a look into the business potential across Africa.

One of the biggest challenges facing the African economy is the formalisation of the retail sector – a key trend underlying the sector’s expansion in the coming decade. Another challenge is to enable the African commercial industry to build and expand, based on accurate data. To address these challenges, and to empower clients with insight to make informed business decisions by providing location-based data and solutions, Fernridge conceptualised an application called Africa Eye, that gathers critical data and reveals the latent business potential of Africa.

Africa Eye is a business intelligence tool for the distribution and compilation of demographic data across Africa. Built on the Microsoft Azure platform, the application enables instant uploading of demographical research content.

FernRidge is a research house based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The organisation services South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, assisting established networks and start-up entrepreneurs alike with optimisation and growth strategies, both in the public and private sectors. AfricaEye (Pty) Ltd is a subsidiary of FernRidge Consulting. This business was born out of the need for demographic data in Africa, through an online portal that can service a global community in real time.

Business Challenge

Fernridge identified a need in the market for cost-effective, automated solutions to provide demographic data in sub-Saharan Africa for retail consulting. However, the organisation required a technology partner to develop an easy-to-use portal with reporting functionality that would allow its clients to extract an affordable and reliable research report based on any geographical area in sub-Saharan Africa, comprising research information such as demographics and retail expenditure.

To ensure that it was delivering high-quality, affordable, and up-to-date information to its clients, with the ability to reach a wider, global market, Fernridge required an innovative solution that would allow the organisation to easily upload and maintain data and provide its clients with access to a user-friendly portal that is fast and reliable.

The solution that the organisation used prior to the development of AfricaEye lacked the following functionality:

  • The search and reporting tool was very basic and sometimes proved unstable and unreliable.
  • The reporting functionality did not cover all of the geographical areas in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Hosting was on-site, which limited storage capacity.

Data would only be updated once every six months and Fernridge required Mint to provide it with the ability to:

  • Update at any given time;
  • Save costs;
  • Automate the uploading of millions of records quickly and efficiently at any given time; and
  • Scale the system in a way to easily support new features in the near future, hassle-free.

Using Azure to deliver high quality, affordable and up-to-date information to its client


Following the design and implementation of the AfricaEye tool, FernRidge enjoyed the following benefits:

  • Geographical data coverage was extended to include the whole of South Africa and 82 cities in the rest of Africa.
  • Staff had more control over data and could better manage records, with faster response times.
  • All information (over 20 million records) is hosted securely in Azure and available from one system.
  • An integrated administration management system.
  • Advanced search, research, and reporting functionality.
  • Improved quality of information, with satellite images of the researched areas.
  • Increased competitiveness, owing to custom development.
  • The ability to scale on-demand and enjoy competitive costing and support with Azure.
  • Simplified and secure data storage.
"AfricaEye is a leading business intelligence tool for demographic data across Africa and is powered by Fernridge Solutions."
Sybrand Strauss
Managing Director

Watch how Mint used Azure to modernise the AfricaEye application for Fernridge Solutions