An African Silicon Valley

Using technology to enable big ideas shouldn’t be the preserve of a select group. As technological innovation accelerates, thanks to the broader availability of the tools needed to experiment with new ideas, it may not be too idealistic to think that the next world-changing products and services will originate from any number of locations globally, wherever bold thinkers gather and work together. If necessity is truly the mother of invention, it should come as no surprise that Africa is already the birthplace of myriad of exciting technological innovations to meet the continent’s many challenges. In the process, its inventors seem set to outpace the competition in fields from fintech and logistics to health-tech and tech geared towards supporting sustainability. 

Are conditions ripe for the birth of Africa’s own Silicon Valley, with its own context-specific and future-looking innovations? Industry experts think so, and a collaboration between Huawei and Gijima sees both companies feeling confident that their combined offerings position them at the centre of what will become a new home for fresh ideas to shape the way the world communicates, does business, and lives. 

Gijima is one of the few companies able to provide cyber defence services in Africa. This component of Gijima’s Vision 2025 forms part of their aim to make the company a formidable technology company in Africa, “with a global footprint,” says industry veteran and Group CEO of Gijima, Maphum Nxumalo. “Fortunately, we have a great partners like Huawei with whom we have worked for years now. The technology rumble in the African jumble is set to take place.”

Secrets to success in an African Silicon Valley

Huawei and Gijima are organisations that make for a formidable partnership: Huawei’s world-class products and innovations lay a solid foundation in the ICT market, while Gijima is a well-established major key role player in the ICT service industry in South Africa with a broad customer base spanning all economic sectors. This customer base will benefit from the varied innovations that the partnership is producing to enhance connectivity and accessibility across the economic spectrum, while business growth is set to be enhanced by a product offering planned specifically for the African context. 

Sylvester Samuel, Managing Director of Outsource, Cloud and SOEs, Gijima

The partnership has already achieved impressive successes: it was at the forefront of the shift to cloud computing in South Africa and played a significant role in creating a unified platform for government departments. The project’s involvement of original equipment manufacturers to launch the first government cloud, enabled Gijima to assist in the consolidation of all the government ICT infrastructure across departments into a single, unified platform. 

Huawei sees Gijima as a strategic partner for long-term goals and success of both organisations, and Gijima can make use of this steady support to generate new solutions. “The Huawei partnership, as a foundation, creates the opportunities to build fit-for-purpose solutions, and together we can enhance our value proposition,” says Sylvester Samuel, Managing Director of Gijima Outsource and Cloud Division. “We are looking at changing the flightpath for our partnership in that we are looking at it being beneficial to the larger Gijima business meanwhile still being strategic to the Outsource Division. From a local perspective there are still lots of opportunities to explore. Our recent acquisition benefits Gijima in many ways including obtaining quality staff and additional skills, new knowledge of the specific industries and other business intelligence, with this, we have access to a wider customer base to increase our market share.”

In an invaluable addition for any nascent market, Huawei offers a high standard of support by ensuring that for each project and initiative, there is post-support – both on-site and remotely – and that these environments have the necessary skills to support these business areas successfully. Gijima, through its strategic partnership with Huawei on numerous potential business opportunities, provides the ideal platforms on which Huawei is able to showcase their industry-leading technology. Further down the line, Huawei enjoys the opportunity to leverage off the business opportunities transpiring from work with innovative, future-facing companies and individuals. Gijima on the other hand, thrives on exploring opportunities where alignment of business objectives lead to growth and innovation. 

To ensure that their solutions are well-aligned to local needs and providing the best possible value to new customers in South Africa, Huawei has in-house skilled, trained professionals that are able to handle the unique context and needs of local technology users. An important part of this essential strategy has been Huawei’s investment in local resources: enabling South Africans to become qualified to support the local markets. The current Huawei partnership forms a long-term relationship, and as part of this commitment Huawei trains and upskills Gijima resources in all aspects of its offering – thereby ensuring Gijima has capability and long-term support to its clients.

Becoming the largest South African owned ICT provider

Gijima’s acquisition in 2020 of the South African business of German multinational T-Systems International (TSI) gives Gijima ownership of a state-of-the-art, world class cybersecurity division, as well as Tier-3 datacentre – both of which belonged to T-Systems South Africa, a division of TSI. These developments don’t just mean an expansion in terms of scale: they also equip Gijima to tackle new areas of business and expand into numerous industries poised for substantial and sustained growth in local markets. During this expansion, Gijima considers a broad variety of offerings and then attempts to use the Huawei technology stack to its advantage by promoting and driving these technologies to existing clients and current opportunities.

Yudong Bai, Director of Partner Development, Huawei SA

“For the larger part of our partnership, we’ve been focusing a great deal on our Outsource and Cloud business. We are now looking at expanding our partnership strategy,” says Samuel. “As Gijima Outsource Division, we inherit – through the acquisition – several industries. Some enhance our current knowledge and relationships, and others are new to our focused industries. These industries include trusted relationships in automotive, petroleum, and retail, to name a few.”

“Globally, Huawei continues to grow, while in South Africa the figures are particularly strong: the company achieved a 30% increase in enterprise business year-on-year comparing 2020 to 2019”, says Mr Chen Wei, Director of Solution Sales and Marketing, Huawei South Africa. As Gijima makes inroads into its new areas of business, Huawei will work with Gijima more closely and more deeply, aiming to serve more customers with increasingly advanced ICT solutions, more cost-saving, and faster digital transformation. 

“Gijima is always keen to explore new markets and is well-positioned and established to become a major ICT role player in the African market, with world-class technology and expertise in many economic sectors,” says Samuel. “The partnership between Gijima and Huawei will accelerate the establishment of both Gijima and Huawei in the ICT market in Africa.”

“In terms of Huawei as a partner, their Huawei Cloud now has four points of presence in Africa,” chips in Nxumalo, “two in SA, one in Nigeria and one in Kenya, and they have recently announced that this is where their largest revenue comes from. This presents fertile ground for us to venture into these markets with them. We are accessing and evaluating our options. We have said that by 2025 we want to be the largest African-owned entity in this space, and we see Huawei being critical to that strategy.”

The business of work 

Access to technology that enables business growth needs to go beyond ensuring strong, widespread internet connectivity – or, indeed, online security. To meet the challenges of doing business in general and being an entrepreneur in Africa in particular, the companies have worked together to build solutions that make working from anywhere easy, and even consider such factors as unreliable power supplies. 

Wei Chen, Director of Solution Sales and Marketing, Huawei SA

Huawei’s support extends to the most practical aspects of business, and efficiency is always considered. Huawei IdeaHub – a productivity tool for the smart office – bundles intelligent writing, High Definition (HD) video conferencing and wireless sharing. A Red Dot Award 2020 winner, it’s designed to suit any environment, and to effortlessly turn conference rooms, executive offices, and open areas into smart spaces. Huawei’s smart PV service can provide Fusion-Solar smart PV solutions to promote green energy transformation in South Africa. Efficient power generation and O&M-free features help commercial users reduce electricity costs. Huawei’s home-use solution helps home users solve load-shedding problems and enjoy 24-hour uninterrupted green electricity.

“Our mission is to grow with our partners, over the past 10 years our partnership with Gijima has grown from strength to strength. In 2020 Gijima was named as Huawei’s ‘Partner of the year’, this made it the best year for both organisations in our history together” says Director of Partner development, Mr Bai Yudong, Huawei South Africa. For Huawei, this means that for the past decade together, we have empowered South African business owners to grow through differentiated solutions and multiple value-add services. This, in turn, means that Huawei is serving both Gijima’s clients, and their clients’ clients. The services provided to partners by the business offer world-class service support to customers, through allocated resources. “We bring value to our customers from inception to production through leveraging our resources, funds and experience; expanding their reach and visibility,” Mr Bai Yudong explains. 

Leveraging the power of this established brand to assist in amplifying solution offerings and generate new leads is one of the ways in which Huawei enables its partners to take their own solutions to a wider audience. Their shared value is amplified, with partners leading the end-to-end customer engagement while Huawei serves in a supportive, rather than competitive role. The aim is to offer maximised value to each partner, at a reduced cost, then focus on managing and retaining client relationships.

The good news about The New Normal 

It’s been said often over the past year that the world’s forever-changed ways of communicating and doing business will have undeniable benefits. While fears of digital exclusion are ever-present, and exacerbated by the shift to remote work, idealists can’t help imagining the possibilities of a world in which geography is no barrier to fulfilling employment and meaningful collaboration. Optimistic visions for a better-connected future in which knowledge is more accessible must, of course, be underpinned by the technology to support that equitable access. 

Gijima has established numerous initiatives in rural South Africa, mostly focused on connectivity, and has the potential to grow these even further. These were created in recognition of the need of growth in the ICT market in rural areas of South Africa, and Samuel states that the Gijima team prides itself on remaining constantly in contact with potential customers to develop and uplift the rural communities by providing better connectivity, bridging educational gaps with online learning, and enabling improved rural safety and security by providing ICT services. A partnership with Huawei can assist Gijima on this journey to address equality and make South Africa a better, safer place for all.

“Trends in cloud and network technology emerging in 2021 provide new and innovative ways for the industry to grow – and will shape the future of business for the ‘new normal,’” says Samuel, “together with Huawei we want to build on these technologies to help build future business in South Africa. This is a key focus for both our Group CEO as well as our Chairman.”

In the future of the partnership itself, Gijima is committed to achieving mutually beneficial outcomes by working together with Huawei on a “Go-to-Market Strategy”. The expected outcome of the strategy is to maximise the potential of what Huawei can offer on market specific products, to customise and package integrated partnership solutions for its customers by reducing the cost of digital transformation and expand the industry market to achieve sustainable growth.

Samuel is enthusiastic about future possibilities presented by the partnership. “We’re eager to make use of the training and service platforms, open for us as a valued partner of Huawei. The key objective is to aim to win together by collaborating and utilising our combined expertise, customer base and world-class innovations. We can achieve this by jointly developing innovative, customised solutions, and launching these solutions ahead of the competition, creating shared success for our partnership,” he says. “Together, we can explore the ‘New Normal’ to benefit our relationship, to become the partners of choice for the South African and African ICT market,” he concludes.

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