CRITICAL COMPONENT

Zambia 2017 | IT, TELECOMS & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Samson Longwe, Managing Director of Hai, on the company's operations in Zambia, expanding throughout the region, and expectations for 2017.

Samson Longwe
BIOGRAPHY
Samson Longwe was appointed as Managing Director for Realtime Zambia in August 2010. He has studied economics and business administration. In 2009, he was seconded to Realtime Zambia from Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc, where he worked as Business Development Manager. His initial task at Realtime Zambia prior to his appointment as MD was to establish the company’s Commercial Department, with the main objective to grow the company’s market share. Longwe also worked for the National Airports Corporation, where he served as Planning and Business Development Manager. He has 18 years of post-graduate experience with a particular focus on commercial and strategic management.

How has the structural reshaping at Hai impacted its operations in Zambia?

Changes to the structure of our organization have not altered our ultimate vision; rather they have refocused it to provide internet services for all of Zambia. In March 2015, Hai became a subsidiary of CEC Liquid Telecoms—a partnership between the Zambian-based Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc and the UK-based Liquid Telecommunications—and subsequently the company rebranded from Realtime Technologies Alliance Africa Limited (Realtime) to Hai Telecommunications Limited (Hai). In Swahili, the second-most widely spoken language in Africa, Hai means “I am alive." This meaning ties in with our philosophy: to provide internet not just as mere connectivity, but as an enabler for our customers across the whole country, offering fiber in homes, which can be used to access a wide range of applications from business to social, health, and education. We launched an innovative product called Fibroniks, a service that offers unprecedented internet speeds of up to 100MBps. This project was initially piloted in Lusaka and we hope to roll it out to the rest of the country. In addition, we are also implementing long-term evolution (LTE) solutions, wireless technologies that we will be able to deploy to connect more users beyond the fiber reach. The performance of this technology so far more or less matches the success of our fiber.

What support and legislative assistance have you had from the public sector here in Zambia?

Broadly speaking, the Zambian government supports the development of the ICT sector. Indeed, the government is at the core of promoting e-governance—for example, both tax payments and the public procurement systems are now digitalized—and it is expected that this in turn will create demand for our services from the public. From a regulatory and fiscal perspective, in the last two years the government has continued to offer incentives to boost the ICT sector. For example, for the import of ICT products and services, customs duty is either zero rated or at 5% compared to the usual 15% for a number of sectors. However, regulatory fees and corporate tax have remained the same for the last two years. Regulatory fees remain high and corporate tax for our sector is the highest in the country. For profits of more than ZMK250,000 (about USD25,000), corporate income tax is charged at 40% in the ICT sector, compared to 35% for other sectors. This should be an area of focus for the government moving forward to encourage homegrown talent in the ICT sector. The ICT sector plays a role as a catalyst by ensuring there is efficiency in all other areas of business. If the sector is given greater incentives, it will ensure that the whole country has e-platforms and this will improve compliance, and hopefully, in the long term, result in improved efficiencies and ultimately marked economic development.

What will CEC Liquid's cross-continent expansion program mean for your operations?

First and foremost, it is exciting that we are now part of a multinational brand. Before we were just a localized company providing services nationally, while now we can connect with the rest of the world and this gives us added advantages. For example, one of the industries that has rapidly capitalized on mass global digitalization is the financial sector. Here, ICT is not a luxury, but a critical component of business. We can connect multinational companies, such as banks and other financial services providers, not only in Zambia, but also across Africa and the world through our expanded network reach.

What is your forecast for the year ahead?

As a business our aim is to ensure we continue offering and providing our customers services that are relevant and satisfactory. ICT, and particularly the internet, is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity. In 2017, we would like to connect more users to the internet and make in the process realize our ambition to provide quality internet for all Zambian citizens.