Work in progress

Think of Egypt and the chances are that images of colossal monuments to long-dead Pharaohs or lonely feluccas sailing down the Nile will spring to mind. But when it comes to the IT industry the channel has a different vision - one of untapped potential, regional importance and a chance to make a mark on a fertile landscape.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  May 20, 2008

He also feels that the reseller channel still has a long way to go before it develops a professional service-led culture.

"More development definitely needs to be done. The business is still being run with the mentality of 'I know you, you know me, so let's try and make a good deal, but if we don't know each other we will not be able to do good business'," said Galal.

Shashank Sharma, Acer's country manager for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and East and West Africa, feels the channel in Egypt has been exhibiting glimpses of future potential for value add and sophisticated revenue offerings.

It is an ongoing process, but there is still work to be done to get our channel specialised to the level that we want them. What we are doing to help the channel achieve this is increase resources.

"I would say it is getting there, but it is not there at the moment," proclaimed Sharma.

"But that is the good thing about working in Egypt right now, it is on a growth path in sales and I think vendors are taking notice of that. It is forcing everyone to take notice of their service arrangements and the level they offer. We have decided that our level of services cannot be different from what the end-user is offered in the UAE or in Saudi. Services with the channel have become more and more important in Egyptian IT."

Acer, like many other vendors in its position, is vowing to treat the Egyptian market in a similar fashion to the two largest markets in the Middle East, Saudi and the UAE.

It therefore doesn't come as a surprise that with the Egyptian market harvesting such strong long-term potential, vendors are not only calling for the channel to look to the development of a greater level of services, but are advising Egyptian partners to specialise.

"It is an ongoing process for us, but there is still work to be done to get our channel specialised to the level that we want them," said Serdar Urcar, general manager of HP Personal Systems Group in the Middle East.

"From our perspective what we are doing to help the channel achieve this is looking at increasing our resources. I am searching for an Egypt PSG manager who will cover Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan from Cairo," he explained.

It is all very well for vendors to say that the Egyptian market is ripe for services and specialisation, especially when many of them are covering the country as one of a list of other regional countries and flying in to oversee the work of the channel, but partners are a little more cautious about the level of market development taking place.

They talk of a series of barriers and issues that have to be resolved before the potential that Egypt exhibits can be realised.

Hatem Ezzo, director of operations at Sun Microsystems-focused systems integrator Promise Service, cites debt collection as one notable pressure facing the distribution channel in Egypt.

"We have a little bit of a difficulty collecting payments, they can be a little bit late," he admitted.

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