Mr. Phillip Obioha is the Chief Operating Officer of Computer Warehouse Group (CWG) Plc, a pan African IT company headquartered in Nigeria. In this exclusive interview with IT Edge News, MARTIN EKPEKE, in Dubai, UAE during the Gitex Technology Week, where Nigeria featured as the Official Country Partner, Obioha speaks on the CWG’s success story and the innovative products the company is rolling out for SMEs in the countries where it has operations.
What are the things you are expected to take back from Gitex? I was actually invited to come and present CWG Plc success story. As you are aware the Nigerian delegation is here to present Nigeria as an investment hub, so what we do on our part is to present the success story to investors that Nigeria is a good place for investment.
As a delegate representing CWG and by extension Nigeria, what do you have to tell the world at Gitex? For Nigeria, the country is an investment destination. There are challenges, but most of them can easily be surmounted. I mentioned to you about skill acquisition and what we are doing about it. We have trained more than 500 engineers; we retained some of them and allowed the others to go into the market. So Nigeria is an investment destination, even the demography of the country is strong for investment; there are about 180 million people, 45 percent of them are young and within the productive age group. It is a fast growing economy, I will invite investors to come in and invest now. On CWG, we have innovative products that have been stationed to take care of the growth opportunities, I will call on investors to come and invest more. CWG is a listed company on the Nigeria Stock Exchange, so investors are welcome to come and invest in Nigeria. We need to create our own Alibaba of Nigeria.
You said the hardware market is worth $39.7 billion in 2014, and it is expected to grow to $144 billion in 2020. What is CWG target in this market? CWG controls a sizable part of the hardware market, but we are not going to kill our hardware for our traditional market, we will still keep it. Our focus now is to go for innovative products, especially for the SMEs, so that they can grow; when the 17 million SMEs in Nigeria grow, they can employ more people. If 17 million SMEs employs one person each, that means they will be employing 17 million people. That will be able to solve the employment issues that we have. We also have the Openshopen, a platform for online shopping that will grow the e-commerce industry to communicate effectively. We also have products for micro-finance industry, so that they can operate via the cloud; you know it is not everybody that has money to buy hardware now, which is the whole idea about the cloud, so that they can convert their CAPEX to OPEX, it will help them to minimise cost.
How does the Diamond Yello account CWG launched recently work? It is a product that has taken advantage of the mobile phone in people’s hands. It is a partnership with MTN and Diamond Bank; we are providing the IT platform for them to do what they are doing. The Diamond Yello Account works with ease. If you have an MTN phone, you will be able to operate your account using the phone. It is mobile money, but slightly different in that if you have money in your account, they will pay you interest; it is more like agency banking. So the stress of going to the bank to open back account has been removed; if you are in the village and you are using MTN, you can do transactions based on the phone that you have.
What other solutions does CWG have for SMEs and other enterpreneurs? Two key solutions; one is the solution that will allow them to sell their products online, which is the Openshopen, it is owned by us. The other one is the SME, it is the one that allows organisations to be more efficient, it helps them to keep their records well that can help them access fund from the banks, because if you are an SME and you don’t have records, the bank will not give you money. These are the two critical products for SMEs, we have that will really make them efficient and effective. And they really don’t need money to get them; all they need is certain drivers that will allow them access to the internet.
How has CWG leveraged on its partnership with satellite and fiber optic companies to connect key industry in Nigeria, especially the financial institution? We have always had a satellite operation; we have been doing it for more than ten years. We have about 18 banks connected to our satellite network that was when banks started offering IT powered services when you can go to any branch and get attended to. You don’t need to go to the branch where you opened the account because of the satellite connectivity we were doing. Now that fiber is available, what we are doing is to migrate from satellite to fiber because with the fiber, you have gigabytes at a cheaper price, which will allow you to do more. So that aspect of business has always been there.
Building Data Centre seems to be the trend now, CWG has one. What does this mean for Nigeria? Data Centre is something that helps people, especially for SMEs. It is not everybody that can make the investment, if you cannot make that investment, then carry your infrastructure and go and put it in somebody’s Data Centre, so you don’t need to bother about certain things. That is called collocation, what it does is it creates room for people to use IT without necessarily having all the money in the world. It is very expensive to run Data Centres because you provide cooling, power and everything. We are providing Data Centre collocation for other organisations, apart from using it for our own cloud services.