In August 2013 Vodafone announced the expansion of its communications services unit Vodafone Global Enterprise (VGE) in Africa. The Company claimed it is experiencing strong growth in revenues from the enterprise market on the Continent.
On the back of its acquisition of Cable & Wireless Worldwide (C&WW) in July 2012, the Group is establishing two new regional hubs in Nairobi and Accra in order to enhance the level of support for more than 600 VGE multinational customers with operations in Africa.
IT News Africa spoke to Ross Thomasson, Regional Director, Africa, for Vodafone Global Enterprise about the market, the opportunities that lie ahead for operators and the Company’s ambitions going forward.
Why is mobility a revenue generator for businesses in Africa?
When implemented innovatively, mobility provides businesses with better agility, better customer engagement and better employee productivity, all of which help drive cost savings and improve revenue earnings. Mobility removes geographic and time barriers, which enables employees to work from anywhere, at any time and engage with customers outside of business operating hours. More than this mobility has changed the way in which business transactions are conducted, with Africa leapfrogging the rest of the world in mobile payment solutions such as MPESA. These solutions continue to grow in popularity across the continent and it has been predicted that they will continue to go from strength to strength giving companies an opportunity to drive ecommerce offerings and generate additional revenue.
What are the challenges to attracting consumers, competing for business within Africa’s broader mobile market?
One of the biggest challenges in the region is the development of infrastructure in the African market. A good number of the regions have challenges in basic infrastructure that makes it hard for Telco’s to grow their footprint and this restricts their network coverage in the region. This has somehow resulted in there being monopoly-type landscapes in some countries where the big players have a first mover advantage in the market. This situation, however, tends to start evening out as the market matures and product innovation becomes the focal competing point in the market. Following an influx of global investors into Africa, local companies are recognising that the business landscape is changing. With these changes comes a need to compete effectively across the regional market. We are seeing a growing recognition from local players that more opportunities are emerging.
What differentiates the Company within a highly competitive environment?
Vodafone brings together an unrivalled combination of managed services capabilities – the world’s largest international network, uniquely diverse customer experience, and industry-leading expertise in mobile working – to transform productivity and accelerate growth in multinational businesses across more than 80 countries. This, supported by the experience we have gained in the different markets that we operate in, gives an edge in providing global solutions to our customers so that they can focus on their core business in any market they go into as we remove the communication pain points our customers may experience in their expansion plans. We also recently acquired Cable and Wireless Worldwide which gives an even bigger presence in more markets and increases our ability to deliver solutions to our customers more efficiently.
How does regulation impact on business?
Regulation is the same for all players in a market. It helps to protect consumers and raises the bar for organisations operating in that market. Sensible, balanced and realistic regulation can only be a good thing for all concerned and will help the growth and development of the market and services.
What is the relevance of the regional hubs?
Vodafone Global Enterprise established two regional hubs in Cairo, Egypt and Johannesburg, South Africa after setting base in Africa in the year 2009, which act as centres of excellence providing regional support that reflects local cultural preference in those regions. We have added more regional hubs, one in Kenya and another in Ghana, totally four hubs across the continent. This enables us to provide services to our customers across the continent to the global service standards our customers have come to expect. Our strategy gives us an opportunity to be closer to our customers and ensures we effectively manage our relationship with the customers. As the market grows, we will continue to be where our customers are and walk the journey in those regions with them. In terms of the growth plans with the hubs, we are currently well positioned in all the key African regions i.e. South, North, East and West Africa and we will look at more growth changes in the region as the business dynamics change.
Please expand on the Company’s existing footprint in Africa?
Vodafone has been operating in Africa for several years and during this time we have developed business in South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and Ghana. As well as having partners in 12 other African countries, our regional hubs cover each part of the continent and provide support that reflects local cultural preference. Overall we are able to provide our services to 49 of the 54 countries across the continent.
Is the Company seeking new partnerships within Africa?
We have a selection of key criteria that our partners must be able to meet and our primary concern is to deliver a seamless service that is consistent with what customers have grown accustomed to receiving around the globe. Our partners need to adhere to the service level agreements that our customers sign with us.
What is the single most pressing challenge, in terms of mobility in Africa, and what can be put forward as the solution?
Infrastructure and access to basic services (such as power and water) are obstacles to building ICT and mobile solutions in Africa. Added to this, the business environment is very complex. With complicated tax regimes, different currencies and diverse regulatory environments, many companies operating in Africa are in need of a simpler way of doing business. Although much is being done to address these challenges, there is room for much more to happen.
Chris Tredger – Online Editor