Africa presents its own set of unique and interesting connectivity challenges to any organisation looking to expand its footprint, and Metacom has found a way.
Vast distances, a challenging climate, limited infrastructure and remote populations – these are just a few of the challenges which make expansion into Africa both complex and demanding. Organisations looking to broaden their footprint across the continent face obstacles around installation, logistics, culture and cost. It’s not an easy task and yet it can be immensely rewarding for enterprises who have the patience, and the right partnerships.
“Organisations have very specific communication and connectivity requirements to drive growth and expansion,” says Réan van Niekerk, Managing Director and founder of Metacom. “They need to know that their connectivity is reliable, that downtime is minimal, if any, and that they have access to 24/7 support. Solid reliable communication that is cost effective enough to encourage growth is paramount. This is particularly true of organisations which have branches located in remote areas across South Africa and Africa, and who need absolute control to ensure their business remains connected.”
One of the biggest challenges is infrastructure. Many countries have limited networks and connectivity solutions in place, and a failsafe is more a necessity than a back-up plan. In addition, the devices used to build infrastructure in Africa have to be robust and reliable. Africa’s climate is not a forgiving one.
“Using off-the-shelf equipment, not designed for our continent, often leads to support nightmares” says Marius Visser, Executive Business Solutions at Metacom. “We have designed our products ourselves specifically for the climate and conditions in Africa, where they are often housed in the middle of nowhere. We can deploy anywhere in the world and our built-in protocol allows us to manage the product from wherever we are effectively.”
Metacom’s end-to-end solution which wraps hardware, software, support, admin and devices into one neat bundle, supports client expansion into Africa. Essentially, the company uses multiple forms of communication to ensure that the client is always connected. If the GSM goes down, there will be satellite, if the satellite fails, there will be fibre – the company is communications medium agnostic and integrates all communication technologies into a single cloud infrastructure.
Visser adds: “The next challenge is, of course, that every country has different rules and telecom regulations and compliance is essential. We have built relationships in every country that we operate in and have teams on the ground in Africa taking care of local legalese so our clients don’t have to. Another point in the communication chain sorted.”
To maintain reliable point-to-point communication, the enterprise needs product, infrastructure, people and a plan. They also have to be ready for anything, no matter what or where or when. And the unexpected is bound to happen.
“A local infrastructure provider could fail, leaving 20 remote stores offline. A rural banking outlet could suddenly be left without any local network, with no idea when it will be restored. These are just some of the regular challenges we’ve seen African businesses face,” concludes van Niekerk. “You have to be ready to go out there, fix the problem and make things happen. We have developed ‘The Metacom Way!’ to achieve exactly that – if a customer calls in the middle of the day with a crisis, we put an engineer on a plane. This is how you achieve seamless communication in Africa. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the relationships and the results. It’s about acknowledging that each African country has its own rules and that with the right people, the communication challenges can be overcome.”