As many of you probably heard, I was in Abuja on Friday for the signing of a historic agreement between Liquid Telecom and Telecom Egypt. The agreement paves the way for Liquid to connect its fibre optic network to Egypt. In just a matter of weeks, we’ll be able to offer service within and into Egypt, in partnership with Telecom Egypt. This is quite historic, because for the first time there is a direct land-based communication link between Cape Town and Cairo…
In 2013 when I first wrote on this FB platform about our vision to build from “Cape to Cairo,” we had deployed about 15,000 km of cable after 10 years. Now 5 years later, we have deployed over 60,000 km. Although the distance between Cape Town to Cairo is only about 13,000 km (by road), our network is almost 5x as long because in each country that it passes through, we have an ancillary network connecting businesses and homes. We will continue to expand the reach of this network.
Our focus will soon shift to building the network into Central and Western Africa. We plan to cross Chad into Cameroon and Nigeria from the East. We are also moving from DRC along the West African coast as we work to connect “Cape to Dakar”.
Why is this important? Liquid Telecom already serves some of the largest global companies with some of the fastest network speeds on the African continent. More efficient and prosperous companies mean more jobs and growth throughout Africa! That’s our vision…
__And we believe every individual on the African continent has the right to be connected! By now you know I see this as key to building Africa’s century!
We chose to do the signing ceremony on the sidelines of conference to celebrate 25 years of one of Africa’s most important institutions: The African Export-Import Bank, better known as the Afreximbank. For those of you who dream of building big businesses that will expand across Africa, this is the bank that helps those who have such a vision.
There is no serious Pan African player from the continent who has not at one time or another dealt with this particular bank which was started by African governments to help African companies that export and import from within Africa. They also partner companies like Econet and its subsidiaries (such as Liquid) to expand their operations.
As a budding entrepreneur, you may not yet be at the stage in your business to engage directly with a bank like “AXB” (as we call them at Econet) but you need to understand how they operate and the work they do.
The guys in the “senior class” by now know that there is more a bank does beyond simply lending money. The banks also help promote relationships between business players. Let me give you an example: Both Telecom Egypt and Liquid are clients of AXB. Telecom Egypt wanted to expand into the rest of Africa, and Liquid Telecom wanted to expand into Egypt.
Then AXB stepped in! They brought us together, organized the meetings, arranging everything!
Then maybe you don’t know everything that banks do…
The key business relationships around the world are brokered by banks. For instance, if I want to know someone in business, I call a banker:
“Is Aliko Dangote your client?” I asked AXB many years ago.
“Yes, we know him very well. We can arrange a meeting for you.”
The current President of AXB is Dr Ben Oramah. I have known him and most of his predecessors. “Dr Oramah”, as he is popularly known in the business world, is probably the best known banker in Africa, period!
There is no head of state in Africa or top business leader who will not take his call. Now guys like him may not be on the front pages of your political news, but they are important.
This did not start when I became big. It started when my business was very, very small and I was dealing with a small bank branch. It was then I realized that the bank could connect me with potential customers, suppliers and other key players necessary for my business. It is also good business for a bank if they are connecting their best customers.
I have known the AXB guys now for over 20 years. When the idea of such a bank as AXB was first mooted I followed the discussion closely, even though I knew at the time I was not yet big enough to approach them for support.
I always try to remain engaged in issues that relate to business and entrepreneurship, even if it does not immediately benefit me… Anything to do with business is my business!
__I promised to tell you “how this game is really played”!
Understanding how banks operate is critical for you and your business. There is nothing more frustrating than when the cause of a problem is something you actually don’t understand!
If you have to start learning about how something works when you need to use it, then it might be too late…
Make it your business to be constantly learning and paying attention to what is happening that could one day be very helpful to you.
Many of you will be interested to take a quick look at our new (30 sec) video. You can see how together we’re building Africa’s century. Let me know what you think! https://www.youtube.com/