North Africa’s largest market continues to attract the interest of the global IT vendor fraternity
North Africa’s largest market continues to attract the interest of the global IT vendor fraternity, however with the Arab Spring of 2011 and ongoing unrest in the country, what are the prospects of succeeding in the Egyptian IT sector? Channel Middle East investigates factors that channel stakeholders need to be aware of to build a successful partner business in Egypt. Clayton Vallabhan reports.
With the removal from power of Egypt’s former government, and the succesful completion of elections, Egypt is looking for the start of a new era. But will political change also bring change to its IT channel? Egypt is one of the most developed IT markets in North Africa, and has a well established IT channel, but 2011 saw markets put on hold as uncertainty reined. So what does the future hold for this keystone country for the region.
Ossama El Deeb, component sales manager, AMD, META, advised IT companies to make their services more accessible in Egypt, and to be aware of the social and economic change that has come about after the revolution. He said: “There is no denying that the recent events in Egypt have had a significant effect on the Egyptian market in general, and not just IT. As we all saw, usage of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter became more prominent in Egypt, and that definitely affected the overall levels of IT awareness in the country.”
El Deeb added that generally speaking, Egypt has witnessed an IT boom in the last few years with initiatives such as the introduction of e-government services, availability of more local web services and content in addition to the introduction of 10,000 machines and 950 computer labs in 950 schools across Egypt.
This, said El Deeb, strongly indicates that more and more users are becoming computer literate in Egypt and the demand for content and services is on the rise. “Companies looking to succeed in the Egyptian IT market need to be aware of these social and economic changes. Supported by a growing IT infrastructure and high demand, IT companies must make their services more accessible and easier to use and implement than ever.”
Ahmed Youssef, general manager, FVC Egypt, agreed and said the IT market drivers in Egypt are mainly coming from a demand from the government for infrastructure changes. “We are also seeing a lot of expansion among telcos, due to increase in internet usage and penetration (especially after the revolution). In other sectors, we are also seeing a demand for security in the financial sector to comply with standards and prevent aggressive attacks from hackers,” he said.
Youssef said as a regional VAD that focuses on bringing to market emerging technology solutions, FVC has been committed to the North Africa market for quite some time. “We set up local presence and cover the sector with a full complement of unified communications, networking and security solutions that address a lot of the needs of a post-Arab Spring country,” he said. “While ours is an indirect model we have the resources to provide partners with the necessary technical, pre-sales and post-sales support.”
Ramzi Itani, regional channel and alliance manager, Symantec believes that Egypt is full of potential, and that the company is prepared to invest in that potential. He said: “Irrespective of the political unrest in Egypt over the past year, Symantec has and will continue to make solid investments in this market through additional resources as we feel this market continues to have huge potential. Verticals such as the telco, financial sector and general business all have contributed to Symantec’s success in the region and Egypt is no different.”
Remarking about how Symantec has changed its focus in the region to adapt, Itani said: “Our recently announced Partner Specialisation Program and our enhanced Partner Program 2.0 has contributed to our partners success in the market by empowering them with the right skills and tools to improve their interactions and offering to customers. ”
Hazem Nabil, country manager, Autodesk Egypt, said it is important to listen and deliver solutions based on the circumstances. Nabil believed that investing in Egypt is necessary in order to drive growth and feed demand. He said: “What is important in any market is that you listen to and understand your customers, and that you have the capabilities to meet their requirements, whether that is in terms of solutions and technology, technical know-how, product availability and strong channel partners. We have built up a solid customer and channel base and invested significantly in Egypt over the years.”
FVC’s Youssef was emphatic on the question of whether a business can succeed in Egypt without creating a direct local presence: “Simply put, I would have to say no. The Egyptian market is one that has changed considerably over time and unless you have a direct presence here, it would be difficult to grow your business consistently.”
Youssef said that local presence not only adds more depth and understanding of customers’ needs but creates trust for long-term business benefits.
Nabil added: “We are approaching our market directly through our channel by increasing our reach through the appointment of more partners not only in Cairo but in the greater Egypt market.”
Nabil explained that Autodesk’s channel model traditionally is two-pronged. “We initially began with the retail channel to promote our products such as Show Case and Mud Box through our volume distributor Nordix Egypt’s retail stores network. This year, we are also looking at working with more value added resellers through our value-added distributor Kemet who are willing to sell a different mix of manufacturing, architecture, construction, contracting, and media & entertainment solutions to specialised customers.”