Digital transformation has become a necessity today, especially with what the world experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with Telecom Review, Ahmed Mekky, Chairman and CEO of Benya shed light of the company’s mission to accelerate digital transformation and fulfill the Egyptian government’s Vision 2030.
Benya Group has recently launched Benya Raqmeya. What is the mission of this new platform and what goals do you aim to achieve?
Benya Raqmeya is the largest digital one-stop-shop e-marketplace for businesses and enterprises in Egypt. It was launched in collaboration with the Federation for Egyptian Industries with an aim to drive the digital transformation of the industrial sector. It equips enterprises with the necessary tools required to enhance productivity and ultimately contribute to the country’s socio-economic growth.
The platform will offer customers the necessary infrastructure to connect efficiently and securely to the cloud through a vast array of digital solutions and services. It offers the most secure public cloud, a next generation multi-cloud platform, and advanced data and AI capabilities.
To ensure sustainability, we have partnered with key market players such as SAP, Microsoft, Honeywell, DELL and CISCO to provide the best-in-class financial and technology platforms to support our clients. We have also partnered with mobile service providers; Orange, Etisalat and Vodafone, to capitalize on their substantial existing investments in data centers and to utilize their digital wallets. Our partnership with the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI), is integral and strategic for the launch of our platform, and our work with the American University in Cairo (AUC) and El Mentors was established and soldified for capacity building.
How is Benya revolutionizing the region’s ICT infrastructure and fulfilling the Egyptian government’s 2030 Vision?
Information and communications technology (ICT) is transforming societies and fueling the growth of the global economy. Despite its vast potential, the benefits of ICT in effectively promoting social inclusion and economic growth are not fully understood and thus remains among the key challenges facing policy makers today.
Benya Group digitally empowers governments, businesses as well as people, to help them become more sustainable, maximize their production, enhance their performance, time to market and ultimately their profitablilty.
In Egypt, Benya has successfully participated in several ICT infrastructure national projects across many sectors such as:
Benya was awarded the project to transform the technology infrastructure for 2530 public high schools, in partnership with other market leaders. The project was completed in a record 4-month period, and allowed a world-record exceeding 500,000 students to simultaneousy take their examinations online.
We were awarded the largest digital transformation project for public enterprises in the Middle East. As part of our scope of work, we are in the process of implementing state-of-the-art ERP solutions in the Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector for more than 60 subsidiaries and holding companies.
New administrative capital
Benya and Telecom Egypt, working together in a JV, have been awarded the supply, implementation and support of 230,000 smart meters for water, electricity and gas in the new administrative capital. The project is the first phase of many to come towards deploying and operating the largest system of smart meters in the region.
Fiber optics factory
In collaboration with the Arab Organization for Industrialization, Benya group is establishing the largest fiber optic cable factory in Egypt, Africa, and the Arab region with a total investment of more than 1 billion Egyptian pounds. The factory will commence production during H2 of 2021. Benya Cables has formally been handed over the factory land from the Suez Canal Economic Zone in October 2020.
Benya is also driving digital transformation in Africa and has partnered with the DRC government to build and operate its national fiber optics network. The project will deploy 16,000 KM of fiber across the country to interconnect different cities and provide them with much needed network access to the Internet.
In your opinion, what are the gaps and challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised for the telecoms and infrastructure industry?
COVID-19 has demonstrated the urgency and imminent need for digital transformation across all sectors. With the world on the verge of yet another lockdown, the use of digital technologies has significantly affected consumers, businesses and governments alike.
We have seen consumers normalizing online shopping and the rise in e-commerce, businesses relying on video conference technologies to conduct meetings, governments digitalizing their services and an unprecedented rise in the value of tech company stocks. In Egypt, as in many other countries in the region, the government is seeking to accelerate digital transformation services as a driver for growth.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Data Corporation forecasted that the county’s ICT exports will expand from $3.3bn in 2017 to $4.7bn in 2020. Last December, the government announced that the value of the ICT sector has expanded by 16.6% in FY 2018/19, from $80.1bn to $93.4bn, and its contribution to GDP has grown from 3.5% to 4% during the same year.
How did you manage to overcome all the newly imposed challenges to serve your customers during these difficult times?
During these challenging times, the safety of our staff and clients comes first. Whether it be through the implementation of work-from-home policies throughout the pandemic, training our staff on precautionary measures to safeguard themselves and their colleagues or equipping our premises with healthy and safety features, Benya has always followed the best practices in compliance with all local and international guidelines. We have always employed trained and highly specialized health and safety staff, and continued to work with our clients and vendors to ensure no disruption in work progress without compromising safety. We understand that these investments are not only mandatory but imperative in ensuring the collective wellbeing of all involved parties and that we have a moral and social responsibility to foster a safe working environment.
Digital transformation is a top priority today. What role is Benya playing in the acceleration of digital transformation in the MENA region?
With the emergence of COVID 19, businesses have adapted as individuals and corporations transition to digital solutions. This new reality exposed immense growth opportunities in the digital transformation industry.
There is an undebatable positive correlation between how well a company is digitally equipped and its ability to survive a chronic market disruption. Digitally mature companies had a rapid response and transitioned swiftly to online solutions.
Today, Benya is working on a number of regional initiatives and projects to replicate its success in Egypt and spread the know-how to other countries in Africa and the Middle East, that embrace digital transformation to advance the livelihood of their citizens. Our projects include critical infrastructure deployment using fiber optic cables in Africa and digitizing the transport systems in many parts of the Middle East.
Digital transformation is no longer a luxury or an option for businesses to opt for; it has become a necessity. Accordingly, we have worked closely with our partners to provide the necessary infrastructure to ensure faster, smoother and a more reliable transformation experience.
Are you planning on any new announcements or projects by the end of 2020?
We are committed to supporting the digital transformation every step of the way and are constantly exploring new opportunities to support Egypt and the region to achieve their digital transformation visions. Meanwhile, we continue to work on existing projects to ensure quality and timely delivery.
Benya Cables will commence experimental production during H2 2021, producing up to four million kilometers of optical fiber annually. We announced the initial agreement last June with the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI). In August, we signed the final agreement to establish the fiber optics production factory as well as a tripartite agreement signed to expand knowledge and capacity building on fiber optics technologies with AOI and the Arab Academy for Science Technology & Maritime Transport.
In addition, we are targeting to launch our DRC operations during H1 of 2021 to build and operate a nationwide fiber optic network, signaling our move into the service provider business in the fastest emerging markets in the world.
Benya Raqmeya is also working on a number of exciting cloud-based solutions and services tailored for the business sector and it will be announcing them over the next few weeks.
Finally, we will be announcing our Global Advisory Board (GAB) in November 2020 consisting of a group of ICT industry leaders, who will be working with Benya management to shape the strategy of the company in Egypt, Africa and the Middle East.