How has the company grown since its establishment?
Eric Mwenda We started when ICT was in its infancy. Telecoms were just arriving in Dar es Salaam, and service providers were still lacking focus. Wia's ambition was to integrate with existing network facilities, becoming a pioneer in that realm and focusing on data and connectivity, as that was where more volume in terms of customers was to be found. We started primarily as an enterprise corporate service provider, with a strategy focused on the need to address true connectivity beyond city borders and provide full-unified communication. We have become the first ISP to integrate with a mobile network operator (MNO) in Africa. This is a substantial achievement, allowing us to be a major regional player. Now we have developed cross-border relationships with other companies as well.
Jameson Kasati Maxcom Africa is an ICT integration company that was incorporated in Tanzania in 2008 and became commercially operational in 2010. Our first service was processing pre-paid electricity payments, and from there we grew and diversified into other sectors including water, telecoms, airtime, financial services—specifically mobile and agency banking, government-related services, healthcare, and public transport. We started commercial operations in Tanzania and shortly after entered the Rwandan market in 2013. In 2016, we began operations in Uganda. We have plans to expand to Zambia and Kenya in 2017.
What sets the company apart in the market?
EW Our focus on building mission-critical facilities has transformed us into the biggest player in Tanzania today. Over the past few years, we stepped into a strategy underscoring ICT as an enabler for businesses, specifically when it came to edging competition. We needed to participate in mission-critical services, not only in connectivity, if we wanted to drive this strategy forward. Now we are looking elsewhere in a bid to diversify and solidify Wia's prospects for success.
JK We are unique in Tanzania because we provide technical services close to the people. Our system is made up of a unified payment platform connected to a number of point-of-sale terminals. Typically, our agents own small corner stores or grocers. Our network of such agents exceeds 15,000 people, spread out across the entire country, giving us a unique position. However, there is now increased competition emerging in this space. The landscape is changing and there are now other players that provide similar services, including banks and MNOs.
What is your vision for the company in the medium term?
EM In the past, we have been self-funded; however, now we have reached a point based on our size, growth, and achievements, at which point our funding structure will have to undergo some changes. The economic and administrative changes enveloping Tanzania at the moment also impact the business community, and these changes will be a huge enabler for people like us to provide more services. We see many organizations, enterprises, corporates, and SMEs holding back a little in terms of spending, with people reluctant to invest heavily in IT and instead focusing on their core services. Because of this, more companies are outsourcing ICT services, and Wia is responding to this with major projects this year to address the fully outsourced IT-model. We will launch the largest cloud in Africa this year, as well as the largest data center that will act as a catalyst for SMB, corporate, and enterprise. We are working with partners to drive 4G/5G services. Finally, we are working on providing state-of-the-art cyber solutions, which is becoming more and more vital for businesses.
JK Our vision is to become the leading ICT system integrator in Africa, providing the most consumer-centric e-solutions that exist on the market. In terms of what we have been able to achieve in Tanzania in comparison to other countries in the region, we see similar challenges and therefore similar potential to achieve. Whatever success we have been able to achieve in Tanzania can be replicated elsewhere, and this is not just theoretical, as we have the market research to prove it. In most cases, we find that our solutions would be relevant. We have received visitors, such as local municipalities and local governments from other countries, who have seen what we can do and want to transfer our expertise to their countries.