DATE:  25 MAY 2009

Window of opportunity

Laura Franz-Kamissoko
25 May 2009

Integr8 IT grows its reach in Africa, and goes for double-digit growth

INTEGR8 IT, SA’s largest privately owned national BEE ICT network integration and infrastructure management specialist, is aiming to replicate its successes in SA, the US and UK by tackling the emerging markets in its own backyard.

Robert Sussman

After setting up in Botswana and Rwanda, it is currently opening an office in Nigeria, is eyeing the Kenyan market, and intends rolling out to a number of other African countries within the next 24 months, says Robert Sussman, joint CEO of the Integr8 Group.

Integr8 IT is backed in this venture by Legatum, a Dubai-based investment consortium. However, Sussman indicates that it’s difficult to quantify their investment in their African expansion thus far, as it’s near impossible to measure how much it costs to send over teams of SA staff to establish an office, train local staff and then engage in a period of “handholding” until the local team is self-sufficient.

“The ICT landscape has changed due to the financial crisis  only is the untapped African market, including SA, attracting international interest, but we’re also attracting interest,” points out Sussman. He says that companies at the top end of the ICT game are under a substantial amount of pressure, while they have massive overheads and limited agility to offer. Integr8 IT is a relatively small company – it “only” employs some 400 people, and it is currently picking up contracts that previously would have gone to the “big guys”, says Sussman.

“However, you can’t bounce off your brand in Africa. In Africa it’s about relationships,” he adds.

Hence, Integr8 IT’s decision to prioritise hiring local staff and engaging with local partners in its African venture, he says. “After all, locals like to deal with locals,” he observes.

But, in addition to establishing its own offices, the group often also follows its South African clients into the African market, such as micro-lender Blue Financial Services. “We’re providing them with the infrastructure to do business in Africa,” explains Sussman.

Integr8 IT’s target market in Africa includes private sector business, although it is just beginning to pursue the public sector, particularly from a telecoms standpoint. It’s not just about IT anymore, but ICT. There’s growing interest in hosted services and telecoms, hence the group’s strategy to establish a telecoms competency within months, so it can be an end-to-end provider of services.

And hence Sussman’s palpable excitement about the soon-to-be-launched Seacom cable, which will make its hosted applications and services, and voice services more attractive and affordable than ever before.

While business in Africa accounted for only some 8% of Integr8 IT’s revenue in the financial year to end 2009, Sussman expects it to show double-digit growth in the coming financial year to some 20% to 25%.