Interview: iBurst sees success in DRC
iBurst Africa is a wireless data provider established by its current founder and CEO, Thami Mtshali, to offer superior connectivity solutions to consumers and businesses on the African continent.
iBurst Africa has established operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Ghana and intends to launch its services in newly independent, South Sudan.
iBurst, which was established in April 2005, has invested heavily in the South African market but is seeing a higher return on investment in the DRC. To date the central African country is its most lucrative market on the continent.
“The DRC has a population of about 80 million people. It’s a very good market for iBurst Africa,” says Mtshali.
“The DRC remains one of our company’s most profitable markets.”
When asked if iBurst Africa will ever be Africa’s leading data provider – Mtshali confidently points to his company’s success in the DRC as an indication of things to come.
Mtshali recalls a time in 2006 when he had to drive from Kinshasa in the DRC to Congo Brazzaville in order to send a 2MG file.
“Today the same place has a lot of broadband services. There’s been a substantial growth in Africa within the entire broadband space,” says Mtshali.
Mtshali did however state that starting an ISP business on the continent could be daunting due to regulatory and language barriers.
“To conduct a business in Mozambique I have to know how to speak Portuguese, and then as soon as I enter the DRC I have to speak Belgian French. It can get confusing,” says Mtshali.
Apart from language barriers, African businesses also grapple with outdated and unwritten laws.
“Some of the licenses are written in the country’s native language and require shareholders agreements be written in a similar language,” says Mtshali.
In some countries, company laws are less stringent. “For example in the DRC, iBurst Africa did not have to issue a shareholders certificate, however we were charged for other business activities including billboard advertising, transfer of money, importing and exporting duties”.
While in Nigeria Mtshali says he struggled to get reliable Internet connectivity. He even had to resort to using a competitor’s connection in order to watch a YouTube video.
Inspite of the numerous challenges faced by African business people, Mtshali is adamant that the best strategy for a successful entry into Africa is to understand the risks and “Just do it!”