The South African IT services market has a new ruling force. According to the IDC’s (International Data Corporation) Competitive Profiles and Analysis of Leading IT Service Players in South Africa, 2013, South African-based and Africa-focused business solutions integrator, Business Connexion (BCX) now enjoys top spot – and it is one the company intends keeping for some time.
Executive leadership at Business Connexion put the recognition and achievement down to the Company’s approach to mergers and acquisitions – with specific mention of UCS Solutions and Integr8.
The former merger positions the Company strongly within the retail vertical and the latter opens up the potentially lucrative middle market segment.
“Both of these businesses have exceeded our expectations,” says Vanessa Olver, Deputy CEO. “We also acquired a fifty percent- plus one share in Canoa, which is our managed print solution and we have had great success breaking into the enterprise client base.”
However, it is not only dealings with larger players that has helped to propel the business forward. One of its smaller acquisitions, Quad Automation, has – as Olver claims – made Business Connexion one of the largest industrial solutions businesses in the country.
Blanket approach cannot work
Dominance in the South African market is one thing – working from this base to strengthen operations and service to the rest of Africa is another.
It is not by chance that BCX focused on mergers and acquisitions within the retail and SME market. The Company believes these areas will account for a high percentage of technology take-up and adoption in Africa.
Then there is the increase in mobile take-up across the continent, along with the opportunities that lie in more bandwidth and internet access – as well as enabling technologies like cloud computing.
The intention is to capitalise on its strong market share of the application development space (24%) and develop the business locally and into Africa, with mobility as a stream.
That said, BCX is keeping a close eye on its existing footprint and will apply its partnership strategy in the seven countries it has presence in.
The business is very well established in markets like Mozambique, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania – and considers Ghana and Ethiopia as markets with significant opportunity for growth.
According to Olver it is important to have local shareholders and ensure solid networks in order to truly understand the business culture to achieve results. Collaboration with partners and suppliers, along with tailor-made solutions, is critical – in addition to a very sound understanding of the markets the business is operating in.
“A blanket approach simply does not work,” she says.
As for potential partners, BCX looks for niche companies who have intellectual property that adds value to its client base, inevitably reduces costs and enhances shareholder value.
South Africa’s position
There are a few market segments where South Africa has lagged behind other African countries – such as mobile solutions, mobile payments and in LTE rollout.
Olver says it is important to keep perspective when making a comparison between South Africa’s progress and that of the rest of the continent.
“There are a few aspects which need to be taken into consideration in terms of the growth seen in South Africa versus the Rest of Africa. The Early mobile payments were attempted by a few of our banks. The strong governance which we have in South Africa can be seen as the inhibitor, but also as the saving grace as we were protected from the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 due to good Financial Control from the Reserve Bank. Hence the comment is a valid one, the Rest of Africa is seeing higher growth in mobility solutions versus South Africa,” she says.
“That said, as far as ability goes, one of our banks was voted the most innovative bank globally. LTE as a technology is being rolled out in South Africa and the mobile Pay as You Go has South African origins. Internet Banking is also another area where we are ahead. As well as our integrated Auto Tellers between the banks which is years ahead of the rest of the world.”
As to the road ahead for the Company, there is a genuine belief in the opportunity that Africa offers – particularly within the rapidly developing mobile market. Olver refers to two reports, the Sub-Saharan Africa Mobile Economy 2013’ Report and the Global Internet Phenomena Report 2H2013, saying that these highlight the continent’s appeal in internet and video technology adoption.
“The opportunities are endless… we just need to find them,” she adds.
Chris Tredger – Online Editor