Who will move SA ICT space in 2014?

By: Gugu Lourie (Tech Financials)

We have decided to stick our neck out and name South Africa’s Information Communications & Technology (ICT) movers and shakers who are likely to shape the industry in 2014.

This will be TechFinancials.co.za first class of movers & shakers.

Our list of five ICT movers & shakers consists of people who are likely play a central role in the development of the ICT industry this year.

We have intentionally sought those movers & shakers that TechFinancials.co.za envisages will make notable impact.

At the same time we have decided not to include the Minister of Communications Yunus Carrim simply because we are not sure if he will continue in his position after the general elections later this year.

If you agree or disagree with our list, we are inviting you to post your comments.

Here is the list of 2014 top five ICT movers & shakers in South Africa:

1.Pakamile Pongwana, ICASA CEO

As boss of South Africa’s telecoms regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), Pakamile Pongwana has a huge job. South Africa’s telecoms industry is at a tipping point in its growth trajectory and it’s up to him, with the backing of ICASA’s councillors, to implement new regulations to take the industry forward. He has experience in both the public and the private sectors, which sets him apart from previous leadership of ICASA. I believe those attributes will enable him to make a mark in the industry.

Pongwana must ensure that local loop unbundling (LLU) happens. LLU would give access to Telkom’s last mile fixed line infrastructure to other communication service providers, creating competition in the market that would give consumers and businesses choice as to price and services. Industry players might challenge ICASA on LLU regulations.

Pongwana will also need to speedily deal with high-demand spectrum allocations, which could enable LTE (Long Term Evolution) deployment.

LTE — a new wireless platform offers better broadband speeds and efficiency as telecoms operators seek new ways to drive up data revenues. LTE will enable operators to deliver innovative offerings well beyond mundane voice and data services.

But more than that, Pongwana — who will be under the spotlight over these issues — has to deal with the high cost of communications in South Africa. He has to convince all stakeholders that the cost of communications has to come down and this will not be an easy task.

Pongwana will secure himself a place in South Africa’s telecoms industry if he can transform ICASA from being perceived as a toothless regulator into a courageous body that can stand up to big telco players.

Pongwana, previously a managing executive for regulatory affairs at Vodacom SA, was appointed chief executive at ICASA on 01 November 2013. TechFinancials.co.za wishes Pongwana success — he dare not fail to implement vital regulations to transform the industry otherwise South Africans will not enjoy faster broadband and the digital divide will escalate.

2. Telkom executives: Sipho Maseko, Miriam Altman and Jabu Mabuza

South Africa’s biggest fixed-line telephone group Telkom faces many challenges in a tough environment. The three executives — Sipho Maseko, Miriam Altman and Jabu Mabuza have brought back investor confidence in Telkom after the company had suffered financially under the previous leadership. However, 2014 will be a vital year for the three as they have to disclose their much-awaited turnaround strategy.

A good strategy and proper execution will benefit Telkom and the country — Telkom plays a critical role in the telecoms sector.

The task to turnaround Telkom is not an easy one. We expect various stakeholders to scrutinise any plans to fix the business. So don’t expect an easy road for Telkom executives.

3. Shameel Joosub, Vodacom CEO

Apparently there is a competitor in-waiting with deep pockets to take on Telkom’s core business — fixed-line telephony. The competition will come in the form of the provision of fibre-to-the-home services.

Vodacom, which is spearheading consolidation in South Africa’s telecoms industry through the yet-to-be finalised acquisition of Neotel, is likely to provide serious competition to Telkom.

Shameel Joosub’s valuable experience, gained in Spain while on secondment to that country, will come handy in 2014 as the battle for market share and revenues rages on.

In Vodafone Spain, Joosub was exposed to a competitive market with 34 competitors with fixed lines and mobile within a constantly changing environment.

This experience places Joosub in good stead to take Vodacom forward. TechFinancials.co.za believes that Joosub will make big waves in this year as he pushes the company into the digital space to deliver data to its growing customer base.

4. Andile Ngcaba, chairman of Convergence Partners and Dimension Data Africa & Middle East

Andile Ngcaba, South Africa’s telecommunications industry stalwart, who looks younger than his age, continues to make waves in the global telecoms industry.

In November 2013, he was selected to join the newly formed high-level Panel on the Future of Global Internet Cooperation. The panel will be focusing on the pressing issue of Internet governance, and committed to a multi-stakeholder approach, the Panel plans to release a high-level report in early 2014 for public comment.

Ngcaba is also involved in Convergence Partners, which in November 2013 created a Communications Infrastructure Fund, the only infrastructure fund that is dedicated solely to the ICT sector in Africa.

With a first close of $145 million, it is one of the largest African based infrastructure funds, notwithstanding its single sector focus. This fund is likely to be in the limelight this year.

In November 2013, Ngcaba was also involved in the launch of SA Wi-Fi industry body, aimed at speeding up adoption of broadband. Wi-Fi Forum, a voluntary industry body comprises of operators, service providers, technology providers and associated parties. It aims to accelerate the adoption of high-speed, reliable and cost effective broadband services in South Africa.

Clearly, Ngcaba will be one of the big influencers of the industry. For more information about Ngcaba visit his site at: http://andile.co.za/

5. Koos Bekker, Naspers CEO

Naspers has been the ultimate growth share in South Africa with unlimited opportunities.

The South African company, which owns big stakes in China’s Tencent, Russia’s Mail.ru, Allegro with operations in Europe, Brazil’s Movile, India’s Ibibo Group, Multichoice and others, aims to be a multinational group of ecommerce and media platforms to give users trading opportunities, entertainment, information, gaming and access to friends, wherever they are.

Ably led by chief executive, Koos Bekker, who firmly believes online shopping will grow in Naspers’ markets, driven by affordable tablets and smartphones.

Surely Bekker is likely to focus on strengthening market position in ecommerce. Bekker, who has been running Naspers since 1997, is looking for new opportunities for the company. Despite growth in its ecommerce business, some analysts believe that Naspers has overextended itself and the share price is unlikely to grow further.

However, TechFinancials.co.za believes the company under the leadership of Bekker could still surprise the market. So let’s keep an eye on Bekker this year and see where he is taking Naspers next. Will he finally split the company into two or probably float Multichoice on the JSE?

*Lourie hold shares in Telkom

This piece was lifted with permission from Tech Financials


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