India: Tech firm’s long-term IT plans in Africa

BANGALORE: Infosys Technologies is planting the seeds for a long-term IT services play in the African continent.

The company’s CFO V Balakrishnan told Times of India that the company is now looking at a broader play in the continent as they see greater potential demand for IT services there.

Currently the company’s offerings in Africa are limited to the banking solutions product Finacle. Finacle solutions address the core banking, ebanking , Islamic banking, treasury, wealth management and customer relationship management (CRM) requirements of retail, corporate and universal banks.

The company is now laying the groundwork to expand its offerings to include Infosys’s various offshore IT services that it offers in larger markets. This includes application services, infrastructure management, package implementation and architecture services.

“This would not entail substantial investments in Africa. We would look to set up a marketing office in the region in the near future,” Balakrishnan said. Infosys currently doesn’t have any development centre in Africa. The company’s closest office to Africa is its business continuity centre off the African coast in Mauritius.

Infosys operates across Africa through a distribution network of business alliance partners. These partners are based in South Africa, Nigeria , Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania , Egypt and Ethiopia. The company has less than 100 people working in Africa.

B Ramaswamy, MD of mid-sized IT firm Sonata Software, said that though Africa is not a major market today, there are certain pockets in the country where economic growth is leading to higher levels of technology adoption . South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya in particular have large banks, telcos and manufacturing sectors where the potential to make inroads is substantial , he added. Sonata, which opened its Dubai subsidiary in 2009, plans to service the African markets in future through this centre.

According to a recent report by global sourcing advisory firm Technology Partners International (TPI), South Africa is facing a shortage of IT skills. The report adds that Microsoft is in the midst of a seven-year , $67 million investment that is credited with creating 22,000 IT jobs in the country. The government projects that 95,000 new IT jobs will be created and filled between 2009 and 2013.

Siddharth Pai, MD of TPI India, said that it makes sense for Infosys to extend its offerings as it already has a presence in Africa and understands the region. Opportunities for cross selling arise along with Finacle. BPO services like transaction processing, which are in high demand, could be offered.

The other top-tier Indian IT vendors like TCS, Wipro and HCL are also attempting to make inroads to the African market. TCS, which offers its TCS BaNCS suite of banking products in Africa, has two subsidiaries based in Morocco and South Africa. A Dow Jones Newswires report in February said that Wipro Infotech was close to signing deals with two African telecom companies.

Source – Times of India