LANDMARK DEVELOPMENTS

Zambia 2015 | TELECOMS, IT & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Samson Longwe, Managing Director of Hai Telecommunications Limited, on the firm's portfolio of services and the importance of ICT infrastructure.

Samson Longwe
BIOGRAPHY
With an academic background in Economics and Business Administration, Samson Longwe was appointed Managing Director of Hai Telecommunications Limited (formerly Realtime Zambia) in August 2010. In 2009, he was seconded to the Company from Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc (CEC), where he worked as Business Development Manager. Prior to joining CEC, Longwe was the Planning and Business Development Manager for National Airports Corporation. Longwe also currently serves as Chairman of the Internet Service Providers Association of Zambia. He is an active member of the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is a non-executive board member on the PACRA Board.

How has Hai's portfolio of services evolved since last year?

First and foremost the company underwent significant change at shareholder level as it became a wholly owned subsidiary of CEC Liquid Telecommunications Limited, which is a 50/50 joint venture of Liquid Telecommunications and Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc. The shareholder changes took place in March 2015. Consequently, one of the landmark changes the Company made was the renaming and subsequent rebranding from Realtime Zambia to Hai Telecommunications Limited. Hai, which means "I'm alive," is the group's brand name for its pan-African operation. The change also happened at an opportune time and is of strategic significance within a market moving towards consolidation. Up to last year, Hai was focused on selling to a niche market of institutional customers, but since last December we have expanded our portfolio to include fiber optic connections to the mass market. Previously, we had not been involved in the mass market as we lacked the technology to do so. Yet today we have become one of CEC Liquid's reseller's for fiber to the home using their extensive fiber optic access network. The demand for the service has been encouraging as the public is eager buy from us and so far we have been able to make at least five sales per day and our target is to more than double this performance.

How has internet penetration evolved since last year?

Internet penetration continues to grow in Zambia. Organisations and the public at large are increasingly demanding more broadband services for their business and social needs. In our network alone our internet capacity has grown by about 50% as a result of increasing demand coupled with reducing internet prices.

How would you describe the significance of internet for the social and economic development of the country?

The internet has become a cross-cutting service and is contributing greatly to an enhanced quality of life in general. It has made it very convenient for us to do research, and it has been crucial to the field of education for gaining knowledge. It has made it easier for the farming community to enquire about such things as agricultural inputs, markets, weather patterns, and soil texture. The internet in the medical field has made it easier to consult doctors remotely. From a social perspective, the internet has become a useful platform for social networking, general communication, IP TV, access to games, and so on. Quite clearly, it is really helping to improve the quality of life.

There is a mobile money revolution underway. Is Hai in support?

At the moment, we are involved remotely with mobile money through providing connectivity to business houses and financial institutions. They use some of our infrastructure to roll out some of their services. We see mobile money as the wave of the future in handling transactions as we move closer to a cashless society.

What should the government do to further support the ICT sector in Zambia?

The ICT sector in Zambia continues to enjoy tremendous support from the government, which is helping to spur growth. But I should hasten to mention that this support is in consideration of the fact that our nation's internet penetration levels largely remain low. Therefore, the government has extended to the sector a number of tax incentives for the importation of ICT equipment. The government also relies heavily on ICT services for its own functioning. It is also expected that the government will help increase access to underserved areas; however, one area where we could do better is in the area of relatively higher license fees and corporate tax for the sector. We hope these may be reduced soon so that we can roll out services to more markets and more cost effectively.