Ime Umo, managing director and technology solutions group lead for West Africa, HP West Africa is a seasoned IT sales professional with 16 years of experience from several large multi-national organizations in West Africa. He has a strong background in business-to-business sales as well as an excellent knowledge of the West African IT markets.Umo spoke with chike onwuegbuchi on a wide range of issues. It is his first ever interview since his appointment in April this year.
HP’s Business outside PCs and Laptops
HP is a technology company. We are not just into ink and cartridges; we do more than that. Today, we are the number one IT company in the world. We provide solutions in the telecom space; solutions such as form location register, which is a subscriber database for any telecom operator. We also do things like interactive voice recognition solution. We have the public sector solutions like treasury management; another solution we have in the telecom space is revenue assurance and threat management solution. Threat management solution helps telcos eliminate fraud in the environment and then the revenue assurance helps check within the telecom network where they have leakages. Another solution which we provide is on number portability. Number portability solution is about ensuring that if a subscriber is not happy with telecom company A, he can switch to telecom company B using the same number. So, there are hosts of other solutions that we provide and we are also into consulting and integration; we have the capacity to do SAP implementation, we have skilled staff locally we use in doing this. We also have skills around Oracle implementation as well. These are the services we render as HP. On top of it, I said that we are the number one telecom company in the world today. This is stemmed from the fact that we have done a lot of acquisitions; we have acquired a company called EYP, which is into Data center transformation and design. We have also acquired a company called EDS. EDS is the leading outsourcing company in the world. So, today with these acquisitions that we have made – EYP, EDS and a host of others; we are number one today from a technology standpoint.
Focal Points as MD of HP Nigeria
As I said earlier when I was talking about sectors that we are interested in, we foresee that there will be further consolidation in the banking and insurance sectors. That is a key area for us, where we are going to put in a lot of efforts to ensure that we sail our value proposition into this market space. We also foresee a lot of growth potentials in the telecoms industry. Like I said in my earlier discussion with you, the total subscriber database for the telecom companies is 40 million and the Nigerian population is roughly about 140 million; so that means we are just scratching the surface of the number of subscribers that are hooked up. The telecom space is another key area for us. Then the public sector; government is the biggest partner in terms of IT. Today, many state governments and even federal government, is looking at solutions and technologies that would help optimize what they do. In this space, HP has a clear e-government solution that will be implemented elsewhere which, we are ready to bring to various government parastatals that we are engaging.
HP’s Growth in Nigeria
Well, it is linked to the different sectors that we are looking at. Financial services are part of the areas that we need to put in our efforts. Of course, we also need to carry out some educational initiatives which we are putting in place that will enable the students know what they are doing and also support them from the academic point of view. We are also having quite a number of initiatives together with the banks; we are doing finance projects for some government initiatives such as Nepad, which is an African initiative put together to support educational services and to help people grow technology wise. So, there are quite a lot of things that we are looking at doing.
Challenges and Solutions
Most importantly, we talked about grey marketing. We also require the assistance of the press to do write-ups about the disadvantages and effects of grey marketing. I talked about two aspects of grey marketing – people buying, taking advantages of promos in America and Europe. They buy at cheaper prices and then come here. What we are doing is to encourage our local partners and distributors by doing promos to meet the price point of the grey market. Another aspect of grey marketing which we need to look at is money laundering. A couple of people are doing grey marketing just because they want to bring money back into the system and so, they launder money. For us, that is difficult to stop because all they are interested in is to make the money come in and not in selling. That is why they sell them at ridiculous prices and there is no way we can meet that price point. These people are fraudsters, they are laundering money; to them it does not necessarily matter, they just want to bring in money. To address people who are genuinely doing grey, who are taking advantage of promos in America and Europe, what we do locally is to drop the price point and do promo to encourage our local partners to compete with them favourably.
Grey Market and Warranty
It is very clear, people who buy from grey market do not enjoy any level of support from us; they do not enjoy any level of warranty. So, even they take that product to the service center, all they do is pay for the service and at the end of the day, they might end up paying the same amount of money that they used in buying the product when the equipment spoils because they are going to source for the spare parts abroad and we are going to charge them for the services.
Government Efforts at Checking Excesses
You know, government is increasingly asking foreign investors to come in and we expect that since government is doing that, they should create an enabling environment. We would expect that for international organizations that are operating within the country – government should let other vendors who would participate or buy the products, to use local companies to ensure that the sales are being made through the local HP office. Again, I guess it is not really much of the government’s responsibility – government has a say but HP internally needs to devise a means of ensuring that when leads about Nigeria are sent to other HP offices, that those leads should be routed back to Nigeria. So, it is a two-way thing; it is not just the government, we at HP would have to come up with that programme, say if they get a request from an end-user in Nigeria, they should route it back to HP in Nigeria. That would help our business. We also would expect government to support us in this direction. If they want to make technology purchases, they should insist that those purchases should be done with the regional HP office which is located in Nigeria.
I talked about that in my earlier discussion with you. That is what we have done. If you go back to the earlier interview, you would dig up all those facts and then come up with what we are doing. I mentioned a couple of universities which you are aware of. There is a clear directive on social responsibility from the Global Office, and you will see what we have done so far on the records. We are going to invest; we are doing business here and we will continue to invest in the region.
Competition and PC Market
Competition is good, we are not running away from competition but there is a differentiating factor and the total cost of ownership; we are looking at the total cost of ownership – who is able to give you the right level of support if you buy the equipment? In terms of total cost of ownership, we have three different support centers in Nigeria – Abuja, Lagos and Port-Harcourt and whoever is buying HP products will not have an issue; if there is a support issue, the person can take it to the support center and it is taken care of, whether the equipment is under warranty or not. If it is under warranty, it is fixed at no charge to the person but if it is outside warranty, it is fixed at a minimal charge to the person. So, we would continue to support the environment. We are not running away from competition. Just to give that level of assurance, HP is the only OEM in this region that has made a significant investment. We have support; we have resources internally that would help in supporting people. If you aggregate it, the total cost of ownership of acquiring or purchasing an HP platform is cheaper than the total cost of ownership of buying any other brand because if you look at local systems products, some of them give you six months and then the warranty is just on labour alone. If the parts spoil, you are expected to buy them. We look at it from the total cost of ownership and the investment we have made and the support mechanism and structure we have put in place. So, these are the things that make us more competitive than the rest of the vendors. It is not just the pricing of the product alone but the total cost of ownership.
NCC Threatens Illegal Users of GSM Boosters with Arrest, Prosecution
Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has warned telecom consumers to desist from using illegal GSM boosters.
The commission also said that anyone caught using a GSM booster without obtaining approval of a duly licensed network operator will face arrest and prosecution.
GSM boosters are devices that transmit and receive telecommunications signals and can therefore interfere with other radio frequency equipment.
Ikechukwu Adinde, director, public affairs, NCC, said in a notice published on NCC website, that only licensed network operators are allowed to use GSM boosters.
The booster, also known as amplifier or repeater is made up of three main elements – exterior antenna, amplifier, and interior antenna.
They form a wireless system to boost cellular reception
“Members of the public should note that, willful interference with any wireless telegraphy is an offence under Section 16 of the Telegraphy Act, 2004,”it said
The agency said it will not condone any flagrant breach of this law.
It has also enforced measures to prosecute offenders.
Accordingly, monitoring mechanisms have been put in place and anyone caught using a GSM booster without obtaining approval of a duly licensed network operator will face arrest and prosecution.
“Any member of the public with useful information regarding the illegal use of GSM Boosters should contact the Commission on 09-4617000/7351 or send an email to [email protected],” the notice said.
“Individuals desirous of using GSM Boosters should note that they can only do so in conjunction with licensed network operators,” it added.
Tizeti Selects Nokia to Provide LTE Fixed Wireless Access Solution for High-Speed internet Services in Nigeria
Tizeti announced that it selected Nokia’s Fastmile Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology to enable usprovide superior internet services to over 1 Million subscribers in Port Harcourt, Edo and Ogun in Nigeria.
Tizeti will deploy Nokia’s AirScale Base Station TDD-LTE and FastmileFixed Wireless Access (FWA) gatewaysto deliver premium internet and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services to Residential, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The solution will also enable Tizeti’sto deliver a more robust, high-speedinternet service to subscribers and the flexibility to seamlessly evolve to 5G Fixed Wireless Access when needed.
Nokia’s FWA solution enables Tizeti to fast-track broadband access and provide a best-in-class broadband experience to its subscribers.
Nokia’sAirScale Base Stations ensure high-quality connectivity and coverage and enablesTizeti to evolve the network in line with customer demand.
Nokia’sFastmilegateways connect wirelessly to the existing network to createa fastbroadband connection and enhanced Wi-Fi experience in the home.
The Nokia Network Services Platform will help Tizeti to simplify operations and quickly respond to changing market demands.
Kendall Ananyi, Tizeti, said:“We are committed to providing the best-in-class network experience to our subscribers. We are confident that Nokia’s proven technology and expertise will help us differentiate our services based on quality. This a crucial project for us as it introduces LTE in our networks and allows us to bring new and innovative services to our subscribers.”
Eniola Balogun, Nokia, said:“We are thrilled to work with Tizeti on the initiative to upgrade their network to bring the latest products and services to its subscribers. Nokia Fastmile will help Tizeti to cost-effectively enhance the customer experience.
The project will also enable them to delight their subscribers by providing more reliable data services.
On the other hand, Tizeti will benefit by adding new revenue streams.”
Risk Assets Push Higher on Vaccine Hopes; Eyes on the Fed
By Hussein Sayed, Chief Market Strategist at FXTM,
After two consecutive weeks of back-to-back declines, global stocks kicked off Monday with solid gains amid a surge in M&A activity and positive signs towards vaccine developments. Currency markets were little changed ahead of a busy week of monetary policy announcements, while Oil and Gold ticked slightly higher.
The two big deals announced over the weekend were Softbank’s plan to sell chipmaker ARM to Nvidia for more than $40 billion and Gilead Sciences to acquire Immunomedics for a price tag of $21 billion. Meanwhile, on the vaccine front, AstraZeneca resumed its phase-3 trial on Covid-19 after being suspended last week following a neurological illness developed in one participant, and Pfizer announced that its vaccine could be distributed before year-end if found safe and effective.
Central Banks will take centre stage this week with the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan all due to announce policy decisions. Out of the three meetings, the Fed is likely to be the most watched following its historic shift towards average inflation targeting. The big question remains how will the FOMC put this policy into action?
From what we know now, the Fed is set up to keep interest rates near zero for a long time, possibly for several years. Given the new framework, any spike in inflation won’t translate into immediate rate hikes as the Fed wants to compensate for the lost years when they have failed to hit the target. The dot plot will be the key guide for investors and traders alike. If inflation projections remain at 2% or below for the foreseeable future, this will solidify market expectations for a low rate environment for many years to come. That said, Jay Powell would still have to explain in more detail how the new framework will be translated into policy action.
In June’s economic projections, the Fed anticipated unemployment would be at 9.3% by year-end, but, in August, unemployment was well below that forecast at 8.4%. Many other economic data surprised to the upside during the June – August period in a clear sign that most economists were overly pessimistic towards the strength of the recovery. However, there is still a considerable amount of uncertainty given the latest surge in Covid-19 cases worldwide and the US, especially as we get closer into the winter season. A second wave will undoubtedly put the recovery at risk in the final quarter of the year and it will be interesting to see the Fed’s view on that issue.
As for the market selloff over the past two weeks, the Fed isn’t likely to show any signs of concern. In fact, policymakers should be satisfied with the pullback as the risk of a bubble in several assets has been growing due to the Fed’s extremely accommodative policies. Unless we see another 10 -15% drop, do not expect the Fed to intervene.
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