North Africa’s largest market continues to attract the interest of the global IT vendor fraternity
Nabil also said that 2012 promises to be a good year for the IT channel in Egypt. “We faced uncertainty in 2011 and had a shaky market climate which affected our business. However, we look forward to the next 12 months as the company has introduced a variety of affordable offerings. These offerings will help absorb this current situation. We are looking at a more promising outlook by the second quarter, post the elections and we aim to open our office in Egypt as the market becomes more stable.”
Growth & presence
Although business growth and expanding footprint is top of the agenda for most companies that are in Egypt today, Itani pointed out that: “There are some specific trends across industry verticals that are shifting the mindset and needs of IT implementing stricter regulations such as mandatory implementations for PCI [Payment Card Industry] compliance and long term retention of customers’ data. “These regulatory issues are driving the need for IT solutions that help deliver compliance and protect corporate and customer data, while also making it more highly available. Also affecting the financial sector in particular are the mergers and acquisitions made over the past two years to reduce the number of banks from 40 to around 28,” Itani said.
He further added that with a massive explosion of data and the proliferation of mobile security and availability, initiatives will continue to grow within enterprises and IT departments, needing faster and more effective solutions offering disaster recovery, archiving solutions, user authentication and data loss prevention.
At Autodesk, the company is capitalising on the fact that it has been present in this market for 28 years through its distributor Kemet.
“We currently have a number of advanced and dedicated distributors in this market such as Kemet and Nordix Egypt,” Nabil said.
Itani also echoed similar views and said: “For Symantec local presence is extremely important. We believe that being close to the customer and having a strong flavour and knowledge is key to providing the highest level of support, and truly enables a close working relationship with our channel partners and end-users in the market.”
Although doing business in Egypt can be far from ideal, the situation is steadily improving. Some of the challenges in the country, according to Itani are the ongoing political instability, which has slowed down decision making, and meant that some IT projects, particularly in the government sector, have been delayed or placed on hold. The situation is also having some negative impact on channel budgets. Overall though, he feels the market has good potential.
“There is largely a positive outlook in the country as it slowly moves towards political stability. Egypt has always been a huge market in this region due to the sheer size and will continue to be a focus area.”
Nabil agreed and pointed out that liquidity is one of the other challenges facing IT businesses along with software piracy. According to research conducted by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the piracy rate has rapidly increased in Egypt. In its 2010 study, Egypt’s software piracy rate stood at 60%, higher than the Middle East and Africa average of 58%, costing the country $196m a year.
Nabil added that there are great advantages to doing business in Egypt as it is considered to be the hub for the Middle East and Africa. The country is also expected to be an upcoming leader in the IT industry, due to the large number of qualified IT graduates that have been turned out by Egypt’s universities.
Training & Trends
With IT skills still a challenge for the regional IT industry, training and skills development initiatives are key to establishing stronger channel partnerships and building solid market presence. Distributors must be kept abreast of the latest trends and offerings from vendors and pass on these to their reseller partners.
Itani said Symantec tackles the skills challenge by providing its valued partners with a number of ways to develop their skills in different technology solutions.
“We have an authorised training partner in Cairo with certified and highly skilled Symantec technology trainers who offer various sessions throughout the year. We also offer our partners online tools for skills training and international training courses which we offer in Dubai delivered by our skilled experts,” he said.
Autodesk’s Nabil added that: “Our channel benefits from the Autodesk Channel Academy – a full education and training programme covering our solutions, and other industry related qualifications. Some of our course material is delivered online, but we also roll-out classroom based instructor led training as required, both for our channel and in some cases our customers.”
While there is no denying that despite the political challenges that Egypt has faced over the last 12 months, which have impacted business in IT and other sectors of the economy, the country remains an important market for vendors, distributors and channel partners in the Middle East and North Africa region.
However, companies that will succeed in this market are those that have invested in skills, have partnered with local organisations and are in this market for the long term gains.