IBM ramps up Africa investment - TechCentral

IBM ramps up Africa investment

IBM is ramping up its investment in Africa dramatically, with plans to open offices in six new markets, extending its presence across the continent to eight countries.

It is establishing three regional hubs — one in Kenya to serve the East African market, another in Nigeria, which will serve West Africa, and the third in Angola, to serve the Southern African Development Community countries.

The expansion, which is being spearheaded by IBM sub-Saharan Africa GM Oliver Fortuin (pictured) and his colleague, long-time IBMer Gary Carroll, forms part of a renewed focus on emerging markets by the US-headquartered technology and services company.

IBM has spent US$120m in expanding in the region in the past two years, with more investment to come, Fortuin says.

The markets where IBM is setting up or expanding its presence are Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Senegal, Ghana and Tanzania. Senegal will serve as the base from which to serve French-speaking African markets; Angola will be used as a springboard into Portuguese Africa.

Fortuin says IBM regards Angola as an important growth market, despite the relatively small size of its economy. “It’s a key future market, a transforming economy. If you invest there in 10 years from now, you’ll be running behind the curve.”

The Mauritian office is also being expanded to better serve the Indian Ocean islands.

“By July, we will have a legal presence in six countries outside of SA and Mauritius,” says Fortuin. IBM has identified a further six countries into which it will expand in 2011, though Fortuin says the company will only disclose the territories later once plans are more formalised.

The company is actively hiring new staff. In Angola, for instance, it wants to expand the number of people it employs from 12 to 30 “in the short term”.

“In Kenya, we have gone from 22 to 57 people,” Fortuin says. “We are replicating the portfolio we have in SA in the rest of Africa to a very large degree and will be able to get involved in some very complex projects,” he says.

All five of IBM’s main businesses — its two services divisions and its hardware, software and finance businesses — will be available to customers in Kenya, Nigeria and Angola. A smaller subset of services will be available in the other markets, Fortuin says.

IBM will also extend its corporate social investment initiatives in all the new markets.

To help address a severe IT skills shortage in many of the territories, IBM is also investing in a graduate training programme.

About 30 people will go through the programme this year, and this will number will be “ramped up very significantly in the next five years”, Fortuin says.

He says IBM, as a global company, has been able to tap effectively into the African diaspora. “We have lots of people working at IBM who were born in Kenya and Nigeria,” he says. “Many of them are keen to come home.”

Customers that will be targeted include government entities, small and medium enterprises, and multinational organisations, including SA companies expanding on the continent.  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral

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