Q&A with Pierre Havenga, Managing Director of Vertiv, Middle East and Africa

  1. What is the future of ICT and IT in Africa, what opportunities does Africa provide for ICT and IT and will Vertiv tap into such opportunities?

 Africa is home to emerging, high-potential digital economies and is potentially one of the fastest growing continents regarding data traffic. Out of necessity, Sub-Saharan Africa has become a global leader in FinTech with mobile money transfer platforms driving the digital economy by widening access to financial services. Digital consumers across the region are also driving the adoption of ICT and mobile services, actively transforming businesses, and fostering greater inclusion.  Africa is the world’s last untapped data centre market, trials on 5G infrastructure has already started in a few countries in high density areas and technological solutions like artificial intelligence are being deployed to solve some of the most pertinent challenges in areas such as agriculture. To the rest of the world, this is an opportunity to invest in the future. Vertiv’s extensive offerings and broad understanding of the modern data centers, communication networks, and commercial and industrial facilities enable the vital applications that Africa depends on 24/7.

  1. Why has Vertiv got into partnership with Fajoba and how will Uganda benefit from this partnership? What must Uganda expect from the partnership?

Our approach in new markets has always been to engage partners who are as progressive and forward-thinking as we are and can help drive digital evolution in each Country. We identified the Fajoba Group as one such local partner in Uganda and for the rest of the East and Central African region in general. Through this partnership, you can expect greater availability of Vertiv’s offerings as Fajoba widens distribution channels and opens new sales offices throughout the region.

  1. The high costs of IT solutions are driving away many Ugandans, majority of who are poor, how shall the partnership between Vertiv and Fajoba bring down the costs?

Delivering and creating value is an important part of our increased focus on Africa, which is a comparatively price-sensitive market.  That is how we have approached this partnership with Fajoba. We offer a broad spectrum of products at various price points, but more importantly, we tune into individual customer requirements so that we can deliver cost-effective, high quality solutions. Fajoba’s local expertise also allows us, at a macro-level, to gain a thorough understanding of the market so we can optimise our offering to deliver the best solution at the best price.

  1. What must the Uganda government do to bring down costs of internet and other IT solutions to make it affordable to majority?

There are a few approaches worth considering that have been adopted successfully by governments in other African countries. We have seen some governments designate funds for public wi-fi schemes to make internet connectivity more readily available to citizens. Others have enacted infrastructure-sharing policies to drive down the cost of network deployment for mobile network operators. There is no one clear-cut solution but having a robust and transparent national broadband strategy to improve access, and the costs thereof, is a positive first step.

  1. How can Africa tap into the global ICT market? What can Africa bring to the global IT market?

Perspective is one of the most important contributions Africa can make in any global industry, not just ICT. Uniquely African challenges require uniquely African solutions. Therefore, Vertiv’s strategy has been to partner and collaborate with local players because they understand the market, know the gaps, and are the best positioned to help us drive digital transformation on the continent.  In terms of tapping into the global ICT market, we believe Africa is already actively making waves and establishing its footprint. There are more African tech-entrepreneurs emerging than ever, and the world is coming to Africa, not only because of its untapped potential, but the unprecedented levels of innovation. It is Africa’s time and the world are listening.

  1. Many African countries do not have capacity to store data nationally and IT service providers, particularly telephone operators store data in foreign locations. How does this affect data privacy and what must be done to reverse this? How secure are the data which are not under the authorities and protection by African governments?

What we are seeing in the market is more African governments acknowledging the need to have robust and detailed data protection policies and regulatory mechanisms that set clear parameters for the processing, storage, and transfer of data. In 2019, Kenya passed the Data Protection Act, and just recently in July this year, Egypt passed the Personal Data Protection Law. We are also seeing an increase in demand for localised data centres given Vertiv’s expertise in fit-for-environment solutions, so evidently strides are being made in Africa to build capacity.

  1. Evolution of ICT and IT solutions have also come with challenges and dangers related to cybersecurity lapses, what capacities do the African IT service providers on the continent have and how can these dangers be mitigated?

Much like data-privacy, cyber-security requires governments to lead the charge in building cyber-resilience by developing policies around readiness, prevention, regulation, and recovery in collaboration with the cyber community. Driving public awareness of cyber-security practices is also critical. Across the continent, some of our partnerships have been with companies in the cyber security space. We recently partnered with Cyber Security South Africa (CSSA), a technology distributor in this space. This shows us that the capacity exists, but it needs to be supported and amplified by national policy.

  1. The ICT and IT consumption in Uganda is still low, particularly for businesses, how can this be enhanced so that more businesses adopt ICT for transactions?

In a largely globalised economy, businesses need to embrace ICT as an essential part of their survival and long-term growth, if they want to remain competitive. However, this requires a holistic approach that includes all stakeholders – government, the private sector, and consumers. Consumption is linked to the cost-of-access and perceived benefit, among other variables, all of which exist in a balance.

  1. How can IT and ICT contribute to the development of cashless economy in Uganda and Africa in General?

 Africa is already one of the world’s most advanced economies in financial technology, in large part due to the ubiquity of mobile money transfer platforms. If anything, Africa is leading the charge towards the realisation of a fully cashless economy, and that is being driven by the widespread penetration of mobile devices.

  1. Can Uganda achieve a complete e governance strategy? What must be done for the country to embrace new technologies for efficiency and effectiveness in governance?

Uganda can achieve an e-governance strategy, but this requires time and engagement of all the key stakeholders including citizens, IT service providers, and the cyber community. While it is important to explore case studies from other nations during this process, ultimately it is about developing a strategy that puts the unique interests of Ugandans first. There is no one-size-fits-all. The cyber-community will be instrumental in securing policymaker buy-in because they understand the value proposition and all the variables involved in e-governance.

  1. What is your assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on the different sectors of economy? How has your company navigated through the pandemic, challenges and lessons learnt?

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and happening fast as new details and challenges reveal themselves daily. Vertiv is well positioned to weather the pandemic and continue providing the critical products and services needed to manage data and keep people connected – especially as we are all working remotely. Our commitment remains helping our customers while keeping the health and safety of our employees, and theirs. We have the data centre, IT and telecommunications infrastructure technology to support these changes to our way of life. However, we are learning, watching, and adjusting every day as we sort through the pandemic’s impact on the demand for computing.

  1. Beyond Covid-19, what should different sectors do to adopt the emerging trends in technology to ensure efficiency and cost effectiveness in productions?

 Organisations in different sectors will need to consider identifying essential and non-essential tasks so they can more effectively assign resources. Remote working is the new normal across the globe, so it is important to ensure that employees have reliable, secure network access, prioritising employees who perform essential functions. Finally, we believe that companies should monitor the internal and external environment. Changes in routine may drive changes in behaviour, such as surges in network demand at unexpected times. This should be monitored closely to see if new patterns emerge and if network adjustments are required. This is by no means an exhaustive guide, and ultimately, it is important for different sectors to be pro-active and less reactive.