Along the sidelines of the Telecom Review Leaders' Summit 15th edition, Eng. Ahmed Mekky, Chairman and CEO, Benya Group, and Toni Eid, founder of Telecom Review Group and CEO of Trace Media International, had an exclusive interview discussing the company's corporate strategy and  its position in smart city development and telecom infrastructure advancement, as well as Mekky's outlook on the future of the ICT industry in Africa and the Middle East.

Benya Group has decided to merge all its companies under one trademark. Can you elaborate on the reason behind this strategy?

We began operations in Q4 2017 under the name of Fiber Misr ICT, and in 2018, acquired Equinox to be the system integration arm for the group. In 2019, the full rebranding of Equinox was completed and with an aim to  unify the brand name under the Fiber Misr Group.

The foundation of digital transformation is ICT infrastructure, which our name ‘Benya’ stands for. With a clear strategy to penetrate international markets, primarily Africa, we created the “Benya” brand, which reflects not only the nature of our business, but also remained true to our Egyptian roots. The first company to be renamed under the Benya Group, was Benya Cables, the Fiber-optic manufacturing facility, followed by the launch of Benya Telecom DRC, established in 2021.

The main objective is to unify the brand for the entire Benya group, to boost the brand equity and awareness. As Benya has several subsidiaries operating across a number of ICT verticals, we believe that standardizing the Benya name, simplifies it for our customers to connect them to one Group. We have rebranded every company under this name: Benya Systems, the system integration arm; Benya Engineering, the engineering company for the contracting of electromechanical light current for ICT; Benya Cables, the Fiber-optic cables manufacturing facility; and Benya Telecom DRC. In addition to two new companies to the group which we launched last month, namely Benya Cloud and Benya Ventures.

As the leading digital solutions and ICT infrastructure provider, how are you focusing on Egypt and Africa?

Egypt, our home country, was the right place for us to launch our brand, not only for its geographic importance, but also for the timing which was perfectly aligned with the Egyptian Government’s mandate to invest in digital transformation; our core area of expertise. Egypt gave us the opportunity to  address mega projects in the nationwide mission to digitalize all sectors of the country.

There is no longer a debate as to whether or not digital transformation is crucial, the question now is when it can be done and that is one to be answered by the nation’s leadership as it is contingent on the government’s commitment to the cause and a clear strategy for implementation.

We have had several successful projects in Egypt, with many others in the pipeline, and we plan on replicating these successes throughout Africa. Our first mission is set for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which we officially initiated in 2021. The DRC spans over a large land mass with central geographic positioning and enormous potential given the underdevelopment of their ICT infrastructure. We also aim to expand into other African and Middle Eastern countries to address mega projects for their digital transformation agendas. Stay tuned for an announcement in 2022.

With Benya's tagline 'Reformed. Digital. Tomorrow,' what's the company's position in smart city development and advancement of telecom infrastructure and data centers in the region?

The COVID-19 pandemic proved the importance of our industry, when digital presence and working remotely became the norm. As new variants continue to arise, and restrictions continue to be implemented daily worldwide, we cannot help but assume we are on the verge of redefining the norm of how we conduct business and our day-to-day affairs. The ICT sector is a catalyst for the development of any sector,  thus the need for investing in ICT infrastructure to serve the growing demand for connectivity in different services and digital transformation in different sectors is imperative.

This applies to work, education, health, e-commerce and online shopping and entertainment, all of which require advanced ICT infrastructure. An example of which, is a smart city project, the Knowledge City in the New Administrative Capital, which we have already been awarded and with a focus on AI and IoT.

Data centers are also considered an important foundation for ICT infrastructure. During the last few years, we managed to build mega Data Center projects, worth in excess of $1B USD, some of which have been delivered, while others remain in progress.

As a distinguished industry CEO, what is your commitment to the ongoing digital transformation journey under your leadership at Benya Group?

I consider this as a duty, a commitment that I put on myself — to serve the people around me, to serve my country, and to serve my region by working and capitalizing on all the experiences, lessons, and best practices I have gained in over 24 years serving in this industry with different multinational companies.

My focus before landing back in Egypt was two-fold: satellite connectivity and submarine cables, which are the two main methods to carry traffic from one place to another, all over the globe.

I consider connectivity to be a human right more than a human need. What we are doing in this industry is giving access and connectivity to human beings to fulfill their rights to be connected. We contribute to that by being the main enabler for the development of different sectors such as the economic and social sectors.

How do you see the future of the ICT industry in Africa and the region in the coming years? Should we expect more industry players or some changes within the industry?

The industry has different verticals, starting from the foundation, which is the infrastructure, going up to the operators who are providing services for connectivity. On top of that, are the applications and the services that are being provided to end-users.

The potential is endless, and the demand is exponentially growing, with the need for connectivity increasing daily. The world agrees that Africa is the land of opportunities, and the demand for ICT projects will rapidly grow over the next few decades. We are from Africa, for Africa. We believe that the South-South partnership collaboration in the development of a better future for African citizens is a duty on us, and we are immensely proud to be contributing to these efforts.
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