For IT solutions provider InfoTech Global, Africa is where it is at. “Africa forms 40% of our global business,” says managing director Suresh Agarwal. “But there is plenty of scope for more. There was a myth among some countries that they did not have the money for IT solutions. In fact, they have started to realise that projects begin to pay back in months rather than in years.”
There is a vast market, especially in Africa, for the sort of expertise that companies like InfoTech provide.
Most African countries are in the process of migrating from traditional systems which rely on paper and manual transactions to electronic, automated systems. “We provide the means by which they can do so in the most cost effective yet efficient manner,” says Agarwal.
They work with global solution providers such as Cisco, Oracle, Huawei, Microsoft and others to tailor packages perfectly suited to their clients’ needs.
Agarwal says that although the field his company is in is becoming very competitive, there is plenty of room for companies that are flexible and prepared to go where others won’t.
“What is important for us is to provide quality solutions where they are most needed. We have several models that ensure that our clients can afford our services without much financial strain.”
The first essential, he believes, is to find the right local partner. This can be a high-net-worth individual or someone who is running a successful business.
“Not necessarily in IT, but if so, then it is a bonus,” he says “and while not essential, it helps if the partner has worked with international companies.”
A number of different agreements can be entered into once projects have been identified and agreed upon. “We can invest our money and keep the revenue, or give a commission or fees; or we do part of the work and receive part of the revenue,” he says.
InfoTech can deliver a vast range of solutions for eGovernment projects such as various registrations for citizens, IT systems for customs and excise, tax and licensing authorities, banking services and stock exchange platforms.
Africa has been a happy hunting ground for InfoTech. It has been busiest in Ghana. The Ghana Stock Exchange, for example, was manually trading for only a few hours in a day over a white board before InfoTech got to work on it in 2008.
“The challenge was to achieve a seamless transition of a paper-based exchange to an electronic market place over a fairly short period of time,” Agarwal recollects. “We did this before the scheduled completion dates.”
The difference was immediate and remarkable – not only was trading very much faster and more transparent, the GSE won the ‘Most Innovative Stock Exchange Award, 2009’ award.
The company also delivered solutions to the Ghana Securities and Exchange Commission.
InfoTech has also worked for the Ghanaian government to migrate some of its most essential public services to an IT system. This included registration of companies, registration of marriage, estate administration and issuing the relevant certificates.
Earlier, trying to locate such records, as anyone who has tried to do so will attest, used to be a lengthy and fraught undertaking often ending in failure.
“We provided a state-of-the-art system and now companies can be registered within a day and records can be retrieved almost instantly,” says Agarwal.
(See box.) In Sudan, InfoTech connected up all bank branches to the Central Bank so customers can access their accounts from anywhere. The firm is also involved in projects in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Congo.
“We would like to get involved in the Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking African countries, including Mozambique, Angola and Equatorial Guinea,” says Agarwal.
The African business forms about 40% of the company’s total commitments.
“We have been successful in Africa because we follow the Singaporean motto: ‘Quote 100%, deliver 125%’.”
With this attitude and with Africa determined to move into the modern age as rapidly as possible, one expects InfoTech’s African business to tip over past the 50% mark in the very near future.