Irish invasion as ICT firms invest in SA

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 21 Nov 2019
An Irish delegation visited SA and Kenya on a trade mission.
An Irish delegation visited SA and Kenya on a trade mission.

South Africa is becoming a favoured ICT investment hub for Irish companies, with independent telecoms software provider Openet the latest to invest in the country as part of its global expansion plans.

The Irish tech scene is regarded as one that has done incredibly well, with its data centre landscape on the rise. According to latest stats, its data centre operational capacity has grown by more than 50% since 2017.

Last week, the Irish government, through Enterprise Ireland, said it is looking to make ICT investments in the country. Shortly afterwards, Nedbank announced its partnership with Irish fintech firm Fexco, to enable global visitors in SA to pay in their home currencies.

According to Enterprise Ireland, Irish fintech firms have been active in SA for years, with an increasing number targeting growth in the country.

Now, Openet, which is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, has thrown its weight behind SA by setting up a local office in Johannesburg.

The Irish firm provides digital business support systems (BSS) to telcos, enabling them to create new revenue from digital services, improve customer engagement and be ready for 5G opportunities.

In the digital BSS market, Openet competes with players like Huawei, Amdocs, Ericsson and Infosys, to name a few.

In a statement, the company highlights SA is a key indicator of the rapid growth of digital services across the continent and the burning need for more agile and flexible digital BSS to help operators scale effectively to capture lucrative new revenue.

Speaking to ITWeb, Martin Morgan, VP for marketing at Openet, said as the market changes, the company is noticing a lot of opportunities in SA as well as across the African market.

“The main driver for this is that telcos are looking to make new revenue sources from your digital services; not just data services, voice services and unique imports for billing systems. They want to start to make money from new digital services such as TV services, banking services, art-funded services and also get ready for 5G.”

The opportunity to assist telecoms companies to operate like digital companies rather than traditional operators is driving Openet’s global expansion, adds Morgan.

African footprint

While Openet is no stranger to the African market, the Johannesburg-based office is the company’s first physical presence in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.

It says its move into SA reflects its strategic ambition to further grow its African footprint, providing improved coverage across the southern part of the continent, where it is already working with Liquid Telecom.

In North Africa, the company provides BSS to Orange Egypt and INWI in Morocco.European clients include Bell, T-Mobile and BT.

“In order to provide local services and expertise, we’ve got to have people on the ground,” says Morgan. “We created a presence in South Africa…we felt the time was right to do it now.”

Heading up the local Openet office is Hugh Muller, who also serves as sales director.

The Johannesburg office consists of Muller and a project management team, but he says the company is actively busy recruiting. “There are some projects that we've been busy with that we are going to have to put resources into but right now…it’s still a young office.”

According to Muller, the location of the office was selected to make it accessible to the telcos.

“The offices are centralised between MTN and Vodacom. That has all been signed up and the entity has been registered as well. What we tried to do is set it up in such a way that it's central enough to be able to get to the operators but also to both airports, Lanseria and OR Tambo International.”

The South African boss adds the company already has existing business with Vodacom and Liquid Telecom.

“We are busy with engagements into the MTN Group; not just MTN South Africa but from a group level perspective as well. Across the border, we are interacting with Econet and with Namibia Telecom.

“I've already started building up a footprint with operators globally and also into the African market itself. Some of it is still very early days but some we’ve been getting actively involved in as well.

Hugh Muller, sales director and head of the South African Openet office.
Hugh Muller, sales director and head of the South African Openet office.

Looking ahead

Commenting on business aspirations in this region, Morgan hopes for a substantial footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“We've been very successful in Asia, South America, North America and Europe, but we see significant opportunities in the Sub-Saharan Africa market; we haven't really tapped into it just yet.

“With a lot of interest from some of the big group operators…we want to win a significant number of new customers to complement the strong base that we already have in the other regions in the world.”

Openet CEO Niall Norton says: “We are in an exciting growth phase, as leading operators from around the world seek greater innovation and commercial flexibility from their technology partners.

“Our investment in new offices is a sign of our commitment to provide local service and expertise as we guide our operator customers along a measured path towards 5G.”