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Practical leadership Session 3: Unlocking unique technology solutions for African challenges
Posted Fri, 11 Nov 2005

Eskom Leadership for Transformation Conference
Tuesday, 1st November

Practical leadership
Session 3
Topic: Unlocking unique technology solutions for African challenges

Moderator: Mr John Kaninda


  • Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, CEO, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation
  • Pete Da Silva, CEO, Siemens South Africa

Venue: The Pavillon

In this session the two speakers presented their ideas about the ICT-sector from their own professional background. After the presentations of the speakers, a question and answer session followed.

Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, CEO, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation talked about the question of how to unlock the ICT potential of your organisation and the challenges for organisations and the government in South Africa.

Firstly, he starts with showing a flavour of ICT products. These are for example, mobile phones, faxes, GPS device, PC, e.g. ICT's is a broad term for technologies for creating, packaging, transmitting, distributing, receiving, processing, analysing, storing of images, voice, text and data. This contains telecoms, broadcasting, internet and information technology. He also explains for what kind of branches CTO (= Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation) is operating. These are governments, business/enterprises, civil society and communities and individuals.

Secondly he notes that the year 2005 is an interesting year for ICT and CTO since there are two big events. At the end of November the World Summit on the Information Society takes place in Tunis but also the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta can be regarded as an important event for the ICT-sector. These events mean that there is global attention to how ICT's can unlock the power and potential of countries, governments, companies, enterprises communities and individuals.

The speaker sums up what the role of ICT's is with regards to the society. He mentions the following:

  • Informing, educating, entertaining,
  • Distribution, transmitting and sharing
  • Networking and empowering
  • Developing and transferring growth
  • Creating, innovating and inventing
  • Cost and time efficiency
  • Computing, data-basing, storing,
  • Reducing distances and bringing together
  • Building nations, companies and communities.

After this he mentions the growth in the global ICT-sector. A few important facts such as : 75% all new lines are installed in developing countries, there are now 2 billion mobile users globally in Sept. 2005. And Africa is the first region where mobile phones outnumber fixes lines and in many countries there are now 10x more mobile phones versus fixed lines.

Then he continues with the development challenges posed by ICT explosion. Examples of this are policy issues, legislative and legal issues, regulatory requirements and technological implications.

In particular the mobile telephony seems to have a promising future and this is shown by two graphs of features between fixed lines and mobile phones and the use of mobile networks in Africa. The last graphs shows that the mobile phone is mostly used for family, friends and others in the community and less used in businesses, police/security and government services. He emphasizes that organisations, companies, institutions but also countries should implement and integrate ICT's (which is the use of mobile phones for example) into their program. Especially, government and business have got a long way to go in terms of the use of mobile phones. The stimulation and promotion of this is one of the challenges for CTO.

A main topic of this debate is how to unlock technology solutions for South African organisations. The speaker sums up the unlocking for ICT power of nations and business. For nations he suggests actions as for example national E-strategy planning and implementation, ICT's in the School Systems and integrates ICT's for life-long E-learning. Nations should integrate ICT's in their national planning and try to take advantage of ICT to maximize their own potential and maximize their growth. At the moment there is no central strategy in South Africa about how to use ICT's.

Regarding the unlocking of ICT power in the business, he mentions for example to set up a corporate ICT policy/enterprise architecture, knowledge management in organisations, procuring and maintaining ICT's and using ICT's for TQM and competition. He also points out facts as the combination between Human Resources and ICT's and the training and capacity building for ICT's.

The obstacles to unlock the ICT power in the business and nation environment are the differences between poor and rich in the world. The challenges to cope with these differences are for example the techno dependency, ICT architecture design and technological obsolescence and challenges for choice. CTO also has to take into consideration challenges as security, fraud and spam issues and policy, legal, regulatory and HR implications.

At the moment CTO has a few ICT partners. These are all different organisations and this network is not used properly. To provide a better network and ICT partnerships, these organisations need to harmonise their goals, programmes, projects and effectiveness through organising joint activities, periodic consultations, physical and human networking and training. Different programme has already been invented. For example, the Sea Gateway programme, a program on Disaster Management and a ICT-road Map program

At the end of the presentation, the speaker highlights the mission of CTO and their service.

Pete Da Silva, CEO, Siemens South Africa starts his presentation with a movie about Siemens South Africa.
Siemens South Africa uses an approach of leadership through commitment by using the balanced score card system.
The speakers points out four main pillars which are useful to discuss the ICT solutions for African organisations, namely:
1. Leadership through commitment
2. Leadership through Infrastructure
3. Leadership through training
4. Leadership for economic prosperity

1. Leadership through commitment
In Africa there is lack of investment but also limited technology, services and solutions to help support the needs of the continent. The way Siemens South Africa copes with this lack and limited resources is through commitment. Commitment for Siemens South Africa means for example that there are companies and representatives in 28 countries in Africa, the sales in Africa is 2.1 billion euro, there are about 8000 employees and Siemens is one of the most successful companies in electrical engineering and electronics in Africa.

To provide a view on Siemens South Africa, an overview of Siemens history and its memorable events is given.

2. Leadership through Infrastructure
One of the important aspects in terms of leadership is the development of infrastructure in terms of global and regional demand for roads, railroads, telecommunications, electricity, water and sanitation. In particular, investments need to be done for the maintenance of already existing infrastructure and building new infrastructure. A few challenges in terms of the development of infrastructure is to reduce the dominant role of the State in infrastructure management, reform the various sectors through restructuring and competition and create independent regulatory bodies, distanced from political pressures. Leaders also should try to find cost-effective, technologies and solutions.

Siemens is besides being a multinational also a conglomerate and it has market leadership positions in various sectors, for example communications, Siemens components, Siemens Business Services, Transportation systems, Industry, Power and Medical Solutions. The speaker points out that the changes after 1994 are enormously, especially in terms of the use of mobile phones. He also mentions that it is hard to compete since Siemens does not get any assistance of the government at the moment and the speaker hopes that this will improve in the future.

On the infrastructure of information and communications the speaker notes that there is already improvement over the past few years in Africa. However, the majority of the people still do not have access to telephones. South African represents 39% of total telephone lines installed in Africa and that voice GSM- prepaid market in Africa is increasing. Obstacles to improving ICT are unreliable and non-existent energy supplies and the lack of low cost telecommunications, broadcasting and internet. At the moment only 2.7 % of the Africans have access to the internet.

The use of ICT can improve the quality of life through healthcare systems and telemedicine. ICT could also be very useful in e-government initiatives that enhance service delivery between the state and the people.

Siemens solutions for leadership through infrastructure are for example:

  • Regional development responsibility for Africa, Middle East, Near East and South America
  • Extensive vendor test laboratory supporting all Siemens Communication Technologies
  • Equipped one million new lines in the GSM networks for Tunisiana (private mobile operator in Tunisia)
  • Sole provider of GSM equipment to Cell C, South Africa
  • 10 years information and technology contract with South African Department of Labour.

In terms of the energy sector of the infrastructure, the speaker gives an overview of the current problems: only 23% of Africa's population have access to electricity and much of the available supply is unreliable. Other problems limiting the ability of the sector to power Africa's development are high system losses in transmission and distribution, climatic fluctuations, poor technical and financial performance and failure tot supply rural areas. A few solutions for these problems invented by Siemens are:

  • 414 MW open cycle power plant for NEPA, Kogi, Nigeria,
  • 384 MW Tahaddart plant and order for two new power plants in Morocco
  • Solar energy for over 100 villages in Gabon

3. Leadership through training
Challenges concerning training at Siemens are that until so far only traders were formed. Now it is time to become entrepreneurs as well. Another problem is the technological illiteracy in Africa is high compared to developed nations. Facing these problems means the including of management learning, business administration and technical training. Also Knowledge transfer and skills development of local workforce when executing a project is needed.

4. Leadership for economic prosperity
Challenges of leading for economic prosperity are the cooperation with the government. The political environment must form the core for due diligence testing before venturing in new markets and Africa needs macro-economics management policies. Siemens synergies with NEPAD on the following aspects:

  • Encourage economic recovery and sustainability
  • Investments in training
  • HIV/AIDS knowledge programmes
  • Sympathy with poverty line
  • Health services
  • Strengthen regional cooperation

The speaker points out that is it very important to invest in corporate social projects and programmes. He says meeting social responsibilities in interlinked with long term business success. An example of this is the Balanced Score Card System. Other initiatives are diverse CSI portfolio including Education, Welfare and Benevolence, Arts and Culture, the support for schools and tertiary institutions to advance interest in mathematics and science, S.O.S children villages.

Finally he mentions that Corporate governance is very important to ensure the compliance with global principles. Siemens initiatives on this are for example binding rules that require us to abide by laws, to show mutual respect and to act honestly and with integrity form the basis of the conduct of Siemens organisation. For leadership this implies the following facts, according to the speaker:

  • What can Africa do for the world?(instead of what can the world do for Africa?)
  • "We have the people"
  • We need to encourage ourselves in the realities and needs of the majority to improve the quality of life of all Africans.
  • We need to address not only how Africa is to improve but how Africa as a continent will contribute to the global economy- and above all how we as leaders can contribute towards this ideal.

Peter da Silva concludes his speech with his own quote:
"All the popular statements by leaders over time means nothing if there is not the will to make a difference."