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Seacom out of the 'long grass' in Africa

Seacom out of the 'long grass' in Africa

The way internet is being consumed, the increase in adoption of Africa-branded cloud and the continent's significantly large youth population will drive fibre connectivity, raise competition within service provision and reduce price. Pan-African telecoms enabler says Africa has a lot to offer in terms of business opportunity going forward and its strategy of its service provider business unit will involve acquisitions.

At a media briefing and overview of its business direction, telecoms enabler Seacom said the way internet is being used on the continent, as well as levels of penetration will give impetus to fibre connectivity rollout.

According to Seacom, users in Africa spend over 50% of their total time online accessing via smartphones, while 32% is via a desktop and 9% on tablets.

"This has implications for service providers, like Seacom, and telecom operators who make most of their money on the sale of data and on data volumes," said Suveer Ramdhani, Chief Development Officer at Seacom.

Ramdhani added that video has emerged as a dominant driver of data traffic volumes in South Africa, and the introduction of offerings like Netflix will only strengthen this dominance.

The company added that cloud adoption, specifically Africa-branded cloud adoption is also spurring growth in data traffic volumes.

Ramdhani reflected on the African tech industry ecosystem and said issues like spectrum, licensing and ICT policies tend to overshadow the advances made. "The Global Mobile Association projects 725 million smartphones phones will come to Africa by 2020, and there will be a billion broadband connections. So, we are very far from that and we have a long way ahead of us, but that represents our opportunity."

Other positives emerging in Africa, according to Seacom, is the increase in fibre, the increase in cloud to manage ICT offsite and the advent of video consumption which is expected to put pressure on service providers to reduce prices and deliver on service quality.

Business objectives

Seacom CEO Byron Clatterbuck said the company is currently ranked number 8 in a list of service providers targeting Africa, but it is the only pure African provider within the top 10, of which few have presence in Africa.

According to Clatterbuck the company's Service Provider business unit is the biggest and the largest revenue generator and in a market in which companies "are either being acquired or are acquiring", the company's mandate is to look out for potential acquisitions.

Grant Parker, Head of Seacom Business, reiterated the company's position in the market and said that while 90% of its business stems from South Africa, with 120-member strong partner network, but also provides services to key markets including Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

Parker said the company's offer of a mixed reseller/ agent model is being well received in the marketplace.

Despite what Seacom calls 'general speedbumps' and the general industry issue of customer experience, the company continues to attract on average 100 customers per month.

"Looking back on last year and going into the market, we certainly were in the long grass, but we are not in the long grass anymore. We want to meet the basic needs of customers, we don't want to be everything to everyone ... when we say 'meet basic needs', what we are talking about here is from a connectivity perspective, from a cloud perspective ... securing that network, doing that VoIP and then giving that device that they can use to connect with us. We will continue to work with best-of-breed providers. At the end of the day we want to be easy to do business with and fun to do business with.," Parker added.

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