‘Many African nations have challenges of connecting the unconnected’
CISCO Systems, a transnational player in the ICT sector last week in Sun City, North-West Province of South Africa held its 2013 Expo, at which ICT journalists from the company’s Africa operations were present. After a presentation, David Meads, Managing Director of Cisco Africa granted an interview to select journalists, in the course of which he said many African nations have challenges of connecting the unconnected. Adekunle Adekoya was there. Excerpts:
Tell us more about Cisco’s “Internet of things, internet of everything,” in the context of infrastructural challenges in the emerging markets you operate in?
That is a very good question. The internet is something I would want to talk about. Let my say that my job, as MD Cisco Africa, is to appoint a country manager for Nigeria. Fundamentally there are arguably many countries in Africa where they have more challenges in terms of connecting the unconnected before they start talking about the internet of things and everything. I think it has a way in Africa, but it is probably some years away before it becomes more relevant. When you take somewhere like Nigeria, which is the greatest country in Africa, I think you have a very innovative and emerging ICT sector in Africa we talked about in in the conference.
You have a number of national and multinational ICT operators who are harvesting in infrastructure in Africa. I met with Mrs Johnson, your Communications & Technology minister. I think she is a fantastic entrepreneur who has done and is doing a great job with her organization . I met with her, I think in the latter part of last year. The biggest challenge she’ s got, and many other operators like her is connectivity. This is the biggest challenge they are facing now.
Cisco now more relevant to GSM firms
Candidly, two years ago CISCO was not particularly too relevant to a mobile operating customer; they were into radio technology. When you look now, we are much more relevant to mobile companies than we ever were before and that is because IP is moving out to the edge of the network. One of the places we are seeing a lot of attraction in Africa is in the space of SPYY.
Lots of operators got 3G networks in populated areas; they have a challenge to manage the traffic going on in the network . 3G offloads using SPYY technology .we have develop a world leading SPYY technology .you can be roaming into an area with the SPY file and seamlessly transfer, you don’t have to log in. The use of SPY is much more affordable technology for mobile operators to be deploying because you can reach a wider population, it being cheaper.
More out of the customer
There is a lot more intelligence you can get to the consumer and then out of the consumer. The biggest challenges operators get is how to monetize the network. You can invest huge amounts of money into it but you need to increase the ARPU. The ability to do that over an IP network using some of the software we recently developed and acquired into our portfolio technologies.
I was in Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week and I have never seen CISCO stand so busy as it was then. Two years ago we were not as relevant as we are now. The question now is where is the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge is neither Lagos, Johannesburg , or Cairo. The biggest challenge is the area that has more connectivity and I think we are much more relevant and able to help our customers adjusting there challenges
A lot more spectrum will be available in 2015 when ITU switches off analog signals. What challenges and opportunities do you see for Cisco Systems?
I see more opportunities than challenges. If I am sitting here as an operator which I am not, I see lots of opportunity. if I am sitting here as a government minister or governor then I would have lots of challenges because the operators won’t have access to the new spectrum so that they can start to roll out high speed services. The governments obviously want to do two things: they want to balance the revenue generating opportunity to them in auctioning, they also want make sure they are not selling to all of the operators to the same market which is the heavily populated market which actually have got money to spend.
The biggest challenge of the ICT is that of how do you accelerate those new services faster? With new technologies how do you make sure your operators invest in the rural areas? So it is a challenge for government to negotiate with the operators what they would do with the spectrum. My plan starts with appointing a country manager for Nigeria; I don’t have a country manager for now. We use to have somebody who is non-Nigerian.
Country manager for Nigeria
My number one priority is to employ a country manager for Nigeria. We have top ten talents inside the company and I am looking at the CISCO staff based in Lagos and I am also looking at a better opportunity of doing an external search and bringing somebody new into CISCO. I hope by next two to three months I will have that position appointed and filed any or whether they may not be on board for two to three months. Once we have a country manager in place we will then invest our money and time and marketing on it to help raise the visibility profile around that individual, we will also balance the investment in terms of what the market opportunity and to what degree can we justify investment ahead of the market.
We have great facilities in Victoria Island- Lagos, we also have a great team, we intend to bring in one or two people to help on the engineering side. But my number one priority is to employ a country general manager and I will be delighted in two or three months to share it with you at the moment I must say is 50/50 whether we will take some great talent we have within the business helping them grow but I have high expectation in the market in Nigeria. I expect us to grow very well in the next two to five years.