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Egypt has been spearheading digital transformation in Africa for the past couple of years through innovative projects and initiatives. Fiber Misr, a subsidiary of Benya Holding, has been contributing to the country’s digital transformation leadership since its establishment three years ago. Telecom Review spoke to Ahmed Mekky, chairman, Benya Holding, who highlighted the role played by the company and its subsidiaries, namely Fiber Misr, in Egypt and the region.

Fiber Misr is driving digital transformation with the innovative solutions it provides. Mekky describes it as ‘the ICT infrastructure market disruptor’ given the impact it is making both regionally and internationally.

In the interview, Mekky shed light on Egypt’s digital transformation journey and how the ICT scene has changed. He stressed that digital transformation is no longer optional but has become a need, which is why Egypt chose to unleash its potential and embrace the new era.

First of all, can you give us an overview of Fiber Misr and its sister companies?
Fiber Misr was established three years ago with the vision of being the leading provider of reliable ICT solutions and infrastructure, and driving digital transformation in the Middle East and Africa.

The primary focus of Fiber Misr is to steer digital transformation through integrated solutions, technologies and ICT infrastructures on an unprecedented scale through innovation and state-of-the-art project management techniques catering to customers’ needs through tailored solutions that can be scaled and replicated swiftly and seamlessly.

Understanding what it takes to lead on digital transformation, Benya Holding was created nurturing five subsidiary companies alongside Fiber Misr, each of which is focused on an enabler of the digital transformation value chain. The five companies are:

  • Fiber Misr Data Center: Focused on providing data hosting solutions and services with different levels of complexities suiting all possible customer requirements.
  • Africa Marine: Specialized in laying, delivering and maintaining marine communication fiber cables in the Mediterranean and Red Sea.
  • Fiber Misr Engineering: Focused on all the necessary engineering services needed to enable the complete digital transformation with a special focus around the electromechanical engineering. Fiber Misr Engineering focuses on delivering and executing projects in the field of electromechanical and light current technologies.
  • Africa Towers: A TowerCo that has a primary focus on providing site sharing services to the existing players in the digital communications field, partnering with them to facilitate the introduction of new technologies in suburban and newly developed areas, and helping to reduce the digital divide.
  • Fiber Misr Systems (formerly known as Equinox): It is the leading system integrator in the region, specialized in the field of infrastructure services in the Middle East and Africa, currently engaged on very important national projects belonging to the ministries of education, transport and defense, in addition to working with all the verticals of the private sector such as telecommunications and other industries.

What is Benya Holding and why did you decide to launch it now?
Benya Holding aims to contribute to all the value chain in ICT; starting from investment and all the way through consulting, designing, building, operating and sustaining digital transformation and technology infrastructures by building on Egypt’s regional leadership, strategy and vision.

Benya Holding is strategically targeting national projects and investments in Africa, the land where technology, skill and know-how and labor are available, but only lacking investment. That’s exactly where Benya is stepping in: focusing on strategic investment in ICT infrastructure and digital transformation projects.

Under the umbrella of Benya Holding, Fiber Misr and its sister companies were formed to drive a regional and international impact on the ICT industry.

Building on that, we have recently joined “Smart Africa Organization” which reflects the bold and innovative commitment from African Heads of States and governments to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to broadband and usage of information and communications technologies. Our partnership with Smart Africa will mutually serve our strategic ICT infrastructure vision.

How has Fiber Misr contributed to Egypt’s overall digital transformation?
Since Fiber Misr’s inception, the company has been the ICT infrastructure market disruptor. The magnitude, execution, delivery and quality of service of Fiber Misr’s projects, whether it is B2B (business to business) or B2G (business to government) have been the cornerstones of this organization’s growth and success for the past three years.

We always take pride in the fact that Fiber Misr, an Egyptian private organization, is capable of competing against international players and consortia. Fiber Misr is also adopting the concept of best practices which is deeply embedded in the culture of the company. Our teams not only are they executing and delivering projects with the international standards but are also setting examples and defining new benchmarks for the industry in the region.

One of the examples that we are proud of is the digital transformation project sponsored by the Ministry of Education. Such project allowed Fiber Misr to demonstrate its capabilities, agility and project management state-of-the-art competencies. Fiber Misr was able to digitally transform 2,530 Egyptian schools across 27 governorates including datacenters, passive and active networks in approximately four months. This is considered an achievement due to the complexity, breadth and demanding timelines of the project.

Fiber Misr has been recently awarded the digital transformation project of delivering 75,000 smart meters in Egypt’s new administrative capital. The project aims to supply, implement and support smart meters for water, electricity and gas services.

Finally, we have also been awarded the biggest digital transformation project in the region to implement a state-of-the-art ERP solution in the Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector for 60 subsidiaries and holding companies. A global tender was launched in August to select ERP technology and service integrators to implement the project.

Could you tell us more about your recent agreements with global market leaders in the technology?
Since Fiber Misr’s launch, we have been partnering and cooperating with the most prominent and international key players in the ICT and technology infrastructure fields.

A few weeks back, the Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector announced the completion of the Middle East and North Africa’s largest information technology tender for the digital transformation of the ministry’s subsidiaries. SAP and Microsoft won the tender to manage the resources of 60 subsidiaries and holding companies, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) in six main areas.

Fiber Misr was the winning system integrator for the majority of the holding companies and will be responsible for the project implementation, which is expected to start next month and take about a year and a half to complete using technologies from both SAP and Microsoft.

Fiber Misr considers both SAP and Microsoft as strategic partners to its success story and is looking to replicate the success in future projects in the region.

In addition to that, Fiber Misr Systems recently signed an MOU with ESRI, the global leader in the field of geographic information systems, known as GIS, in order to cooperate in the geographical software sector within Africa. The partnership with ESRI will allow Benya Holding, through its subsidiary Fiber Misr Systems, to bring the latest global technology in mapping, spatial analysis and geographic.

Based on previous collaboration in strategic mega projects, we also signed an MOU with Dell EMC to explore venues of further alignment between Fiber Misr and Dell EMC.

This is on top of our long and historic relationship with Cisco Egypt through Fiber Misr Systems which has been one of the largest partners for Cisco in Egypt for many years.

We are also in advanced conversation with a leading German player to collaborate in the field of integrated communities, smart cities and industrial zones development in order to enhance the information and communication technology industry and boost the digital transformation in the country.

We are also quite keen on building the optimum portfolio for our customers and we cherry-pick the services and products to ensure that they receive the best value and industry practices during their digital transformation journeys.

With innovation on the rise, how has the business scenario changed in Egypt over the past year in terms of services and technology?
We see that the leadership of Egypt is driving an unprecedented era of development on multiple aspects. Due to the pace of Egypt’s development, we believe that it is extremely well positioned to be the hub for digital transformation in the region.

This development, connected with a diverse society that has both, the capacity and thirst for raising the quality of services received, demanding efficiency in the day to day transactions and ultimately a higher standard of living is driving a continuous change in the business scene of Egypt and creating unique opportunities.

Egypt’s technology market with all its verticals is one of the readiest markets for outstanding growth intertwined with phenomenal transformation of the infrastructure of the country, covering the multilayers of the foundation from urbanization, governmental, education, transportation and many others.

As per your personal observations, has the region embraced digital transformation yet?
We believe that digital transformation is no longer a luxury. The choice of not embracing digital transformation may have been an option a decade ago but not anymore.

The question is no longer whether a country will adopt digital transformation or not, the question is when. And we are clearly seeing that Egypt’s leadership has given the green light to unleash this potential.

In the past, the region may have suffered from under development, which seemed to be a disadvantage back then. On the other side, we are seeing this as an advantage, since the region and especially Africa is a greenfield that it is ripe for digital transformation initiatives and projects.

We are also seeing that there is a very positive ecosystem for startups in the region and investors are looking for opportunities. With many countries in the region, Egypt as an example, is becoming a hub for technology startups in many fields.

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