Uganda can be an IT frontier in region - Expert


The Ugandan market is still a virgin area for investment compared to the saturated markets of Europe and Americas, an ICT expert has said. Bill Crawley, the Managing Director of Mara Ison Technologies observed that there is a focus on Africa by investors from around the world because of the growth potential the continent has.
 In an interview with Business Vision, Crawley said business people in Uganda are outward looking and in search of better ways of doing business, employing the latest technology while professionals are oozing with knowledge.
“Which is why I think there’s a lot of potential,” he said. “It’s not about what technology and business one can secure, but also looking at ways of applying it. There’s a lot of potential. People are progressive out here,” Crawley commented.
Crawley was in the country oversee the inauguration of his company’s investments. In the venture, Raps Uganda Limited in partnership with Ison Infotel of India have merged into Mara Ison Technologies. The firm with a global outlook supplies hardware and software and offers IT services for system integration projects. Its also engages in fibre laying and data center building and hosting at large scale.
The Mara boss noted that government officials, private businessmen and professionals he has met are oozing with knowledge and what remains is right application to set Uganda on a higher development pedestal. “I have no negatives here apart from the potholes,” he said.

Mara Ison has built a strong presence in Africa and is currently involved in projects in; Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Congo and Zambia. “We have aggressive investments plans for the market in Africa,” Crawley remarked.  “Africa is still the only growth market available in the world,” he emphasised.
Crawley said in areas where technology is evolving like Africa, there’s a stet-by-step progression but Uganda seems to have leapt and skipped some stages. “We are at a start of a journey in Africa in the way technology is being used to do business. I have found a lot of openness among the government and private sector people I have met. In starting a journey, there are people who should lead. Uganda should provide that light,” Crawley stated.
Mara Ison is part of the Mara Group which is a billion dollar enterprise has headquarters in Dubai and subsidiaries in India and 18 African countries. “Multinationals don’t move into one country; they move into several,” he added. Mara Ison’s business worth in Africa stand at over $15m (sh42b).
It has 300 employees in the country and expect to recruits to over 1000 employees as the business expands. The company, according to the MD, uses local human resource which it blends with expertise from abroad. “We need to identify professionals to work with,” he stated.
Crawley explained that Mara Ison has not come to compete with small companies for small projects but huge ones that leverage linkages in the region and continental level. The firm has acquired Raps Uganda Limited which has been a local player and transitioned into Mara Ison which has a global presence.
 “Small projects for small market, is not what we are looking for. That needs small players. We are looking for large, complex, highly technical projects which need specialized expertise. They are the ones that interest us,” Crawley explained.
Some of Mara Ison’s projects include; IT component for banks, network for mobile telephone companies and databases for governments including national ID projects.  The Mara Ison chief executive noted that although some skills might not be available, connectivity will lead to many innovations.
Crawley said the new business model Mara Ison brings on the market is provision of IT solutions to large corporate organisations and they concentrate on what they can do best. He said gone are the days when companies maintained large IT departments to support the work they are specialized in doing.
“A communication company should be able to let in your calls but should not worry about the network. Similarly, a bank should be able to let you access your money but should not be worried about its ATM machines. They look at companies like Mara Ison for solutions,” Crawley said.
“That brings in efficiency because we have specialists. That’s an area where there is a lot of opportunity in Uganda. It’s a move from wanting to do everything yourself,” he elaborated.