By Akin Ande, CEO at Chert System Solutions Nigeria
Even someone outside of the ICT market can see that Africa’s ICT market is growing at a phenomenal rate. This growth is predicted to continue for at least the next 5-10 years, as more multinationals invest and setup operations in Africa. However, the lack of enough visibly strong, credible and experienced VARs across Africa will mean that a large chunk of the IT spend will go to European and US multinational VARs, who will then export into Africa.
In the IT industry, a VAR (value-added reseller) is a company that has the skills and expertise to combine different IT components to build complete IT solution for their clients. So, when presented with a specific IT problem, a VAR might look at products from different vendors and combine them to create the best solution. For example, a computer chip, printer, hard drive, monitor and graphics software from different vendors, could be combined and packaged to create a computer-aided design system. Or another example could be to combine a barcode scanner, receipt printer and computer to build an ePOS (Electronic Point Of Sale) solution.
To achieve this I believe as VARs, we need to focus on the following:
Understanding our client’s needs, rather than just selling them a product. This will mean Asking our clients relevant questing like “what do you need that product for?” or “why do you want that particular product?”
Focus more on adding value to our client’s solution rather than focussing just on price.
Focus on developing our product knowledge by investing in staff training and attending vendor training.
The stronger African VARs are, the more we will create local skills, create jobs, improve our local economy and YES make more profits which can stay within Africa.
That is why as the CEO of Chert System Solutions Nigeria, I am striving to provide our clients with a service rivalling that provided by our competitors in the developed world. We started four years ago in Lagos with $ 3,000 and now we are one of the biggest VARs in Nigeria, with business clients in 8 African counties.
Ande launched Chert Computers in Nigeria in 2010 with just $3,000 and and within 1 year the firm won a$500,000 deal with AirTel/tech Mehindra in 8 countries in Africa. The firm is now one of the leading IT store in Nigeria and is set to launch across sub-Saharan Africa.