The massive advances in technology, and the processing power our smart devices possess, have become a given.
Most people have lost count of the number of times they have been told that our smart devices have more processing power than the spacecraft in Nasa’s Apollo moon missions. This, along with the dramatic drop in the price of data storage, coupled with the ability to move data through fibre-optic and 4G mobile networks at high speed, are without doubt a game changer.
It’s mind-blowing when you stop and think about this. What does this mean for how we live our lives and do business and how do we keep pace with the rapidly evolving technological advances?
Most of us are not digital natives, yet we embrace the convenience of the computing power built into smartphones (and to a lesser extent feature phones). Besides phone calls, which are so last century, our mobile devices give us access to messages, e-mails and calendars.
My device has a more than I could ever wish for: 12-megapixel camera and 64 GB of storage (I have an old version), it streams YouTube or Netflix content, has the Uber app, Google Maps and Apple’s health data that my Discovery medical aid uses to give me loyalty points. Going forward, with a virtual reality headset and Minecraft loaded on my iPhone, I think my sub-10-year-old kids are going to disappear into a virtual world of their own creation never to be seen again (but this may still be wishful thinking).
In addition to the conveniences we now take for granted and making life more fun, global connectivity allows access to the latest thinking and can substantially improve education and knowledge-sharing. The Internet has empowered individuals in myriad ways, whether it’s online shopping or banking or simply giving people easy access to understanding what products are out there and their comparative pricing without having to walk around the shopping mall.
Exciting and scary
Yet this “new normal” is both exciting and scary. As facilitators and providers of capital, we as an investment bank have a major role to play in bringing this wizardry to users, through investing in the infrastructure and businesses of our clients in the telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) sector. But it’s not easy, as many of these opportunities are new businesses and in new technologies, which is not an area traditional banks are good at. Using money deposited in the bank by pensioners, widowers and orphans to invest in early-stage businesses in a rapidly changing environment has never been a great banking business model.
But the sector has substantial capital requirements, and to keep prices to the end user affordable, it needs access to cost-effective funding. Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) recognises that to facilitate funding to our various clients requires a detailed understanding and mitigation of the risk in the sector and close collaboration among our product experts.
RMB has experience across the continent in investing in and rolling out the infrastructure that underpins this fourth Industrial Revolution, including fibre-optic networks, 3G/4G networks and the related tower infrastructure and data centres.
The continent has great potential to leapfrog developed markets because of the vast gap between the two. Africa doesn’t have the heavy burden of old technology and can charge into the future much quicker than the rest of the world.
RMB facilitated Royal Bafokeng Holdings’ participation in the 2016 buyout of Neotel by Liquid Telecom, a transformational transaction that created the largest pan-African broadband provider on the continent — Liquid Telecom’s network now stretches from the Cape to Cairo.
RMB prides itself on having innovative thinkers: our founders were rather prescient when, in 1977, they coined the slogan: “Traditional values, innovative ideas.” That attitude informs our approach and is a part of our DNA. Working across our product teams, within our risk functions, and together with our clients, we ensure bespoke solutions to address the challenges in the TMT space.
- Keith Webb looks at business development in the TMT sector for Rand Merchant Bank
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