Building Zambia’s Digital Future
The rise of data, nurturing the inventiveness of young people, and why I believe Zambia can be the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Southern Africa.
Lusaka – The communications sector in Zambia has undergone significant transition turning it into one driven primarily by the growth of data services. The popularity of social media websites and instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Instagram, Snap Chat and WhatsApp continues to stimulate data usage across different segments in the market.
Most smart-phone owners’ usage patterns have increasingly become more data-heavy, with the quantity spent on non-voice activity rising noticeably. The initial idea around the smartphone was that it would allow both voice and data communications on a single device. However, in the last few years, the data capabilities of smartphones have gradually heightened, in the form of improved graphics, high definition cameras, larger screens, and 4G LTE compatibility – all of which demonstrate how data-hungry consumers have become.
Have a look at a few corroborating stats; Tech Crunch reports that in 2015 Facebook video viewership grew by leaps and bounds. It saw roughly 8 billion average daily video views from 500 million users. Statistic brain reports that the number of videos viewed on YouTube everyday amount to under 5 billion which is the equivalent of 3.25 billion hours of watched video each month.
Against this backdrop, Vodafone entered the Zambian market in June 2016 with the launch of 4G-LTE data services aimed at transforming the communication sector in order to bridge the digital divide, with an initial investment of $US40 million.
The birth of Vodafone Zambia was a result of Vodafone and Afrimax Group entering a non-equity partner market agreement for Zambia with a clear vision of becoming the number one next generation operator in Zambia.
Prior to our launch, our market research and intelligence revealed a reality I have known for a long time now: Zambia’s youth are vibrant, are buzzing with ideas and innovations, and are hungry to transform not only their country but the entire continent. Access to mobile technologies, reliable and ultra-fast internet will give them the energy and excitement to test, innovate, and push their limits.
We have created around 130 jobs in the last six months, and 50 per cent of those are graduates, who are some of the best and brightest students from universities and colleges in the country, who form part of our graduate trainee programme.
Young people are critical to our operations and form a core part of our strategy. As further proof of this, we rolled out a robust university and college programme in partnership with eight major institutions of higher learning in the country. This resulted in the establishment of the brand ambassador programme with approximately 300 students who have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the corporate world as well as mentorship and coaching sessions.
The involvement of young people in our business has been tremendous! Through their direct input, we have successfully created a number of revolutionary products and services, many of which we have exported to partner markets across the African continent and also to the Vodafone Global Group. For example, our e-learning portal JUMP, gives young people the opportunity to fulfil their academic, career and entrepreneurial aspirations by providing useful information and knowledge for free; or our free home delivery service which allows customers to order devices online and have them delivered right at their doorstep; or the My Vodafone App which offers customers the convenience to stay in control of their account whilst on the go with features such as usage history, credit transfer, store locator, and easy topping up with a voucher or debit or credit card; or the Chat+ app which allows customers to make HD app to app calls – all of these have the fingerprints of the youngsters we have given leeway in our organisation.
These innovations have won Vodafone Zambia nine local, regional, and global awards. I mention all this not as a way of showing off but to exemplify what happens when you believe in young people and give them the platform upon which to demonstrate their capabilities. The awards we have garnered are a stamp of approval on the strides we have made to create a business of young people, for young people.
The overwhelming success we have experienced in Zambia has resulted in the organisation being established as the regional hub for the Afrimax-Vodafone Group to support operations of other African markets such as Cameroon, Uganda, and Ghana.
The establishment of this regional hub is unique to Vodafone. A number of other operators design their products and innovations in other countries and bring them into Zambia; not so with us. I believe that this is testimony of the great skill-set that our local team possesses, and provides a unique opportunity for them to share best practice, transfer skills to other markets on the continent, and provide job opportunities both locally and regionally as a way of enhancing talent development.
Zambia is strategically positioned in Southern Africa. Plus, with the tremendous pool of young and focussed talent here, I genuinely believe it can become a ‘Silicon Valley’ in the region – a hub for technological advancement, driving the region and its people into a bright digital future. As we enter 2017, Vodafone Zambia is building and fortifying its relationships with government agencies, other corporates and any other entities that will be willing to share the vision and make it a reality.
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