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Africa Outlook

computer warehouse group
austin okere
technlogy
it

COMPUTER WAREHOUSE GROUP

Computer Warehouse Group (CWG Plc) is leveraging IT innovative aptitude and partnerships with some of the world’s most renowned IT players as it expands its range of win-win solutions to customers and partners alike

Starting a Business Revolution

Writer:

Matthew Staff

Project Manager:

Donovan Smith

Since unveiling its 2.0 model three years ago, Computer Warehouse Group has continued to adapt and innovate as it strives to infiltrate as much of West, East and South Africa as possible with its business revolution.

With the initial aim of embarking on a new adventure in 2010 with its more dynamic and profitable strategy for delivering cloud services and solutions to SMEs in Nigeria, the Company’s subsequent success has not always been achieved with a tailwind, but has been consistent and flexible enough to make it the dominant player across a range of sectors in the region.

Over the course of the past 12 months, this ongoing success has been carried out in the face of a significant oil price drop in its historically oil-dependent home nation; a trend which has proven catastrophic for many significant enterprises in Nigeria, but one that has opened up a new opportunity for the entrepreneurial Computer Warehouse Group.

“We believe that only the flexible survive and that has been our strength from five years ago when we decided we needed to become the dominant player in the cloud computing market,” recalls Austin Okere, the Company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). “We knew that our previous model would not carry on being successful into the future, so in 2010 we looked at what we can provide in the cloud at a better value proposition to our customers, and to create better profit for ourselves.”

This flexibility, coupled with its commitment to empowering SMEs with technology in Nigeria has been an unlikely boost in 2015 with the country now looking towards smaller businesses to boost an economy struggling as a result of the oil crisis.

“Nigeria has started looking at other ways of building the economy, focusing on SMEs and the space we operate in,” Okere continues. “Now, there are more and more SMEs getting support and requiring solutions that we can provide.

“We are probably in the best position amongst our peers because we already have the systems in place to deliver these cloud solutions to SMEs.”

Success stories

The potential created for 2015 and beyond as a result of this more diverse distribution of wealth in Nigeria is just the latest in a long line of success stories for -CWG Plc across not only Nigeria, but also Cameroon, Uganda and Ghana; the Company priding itself on finding realistic solutions for the entire region.

Its award-winning ecommerce platform alone has expanded from comprising just 40 merchants to more than 2,500 in recent times, epitomising once again the business’s forward momentum in a market which its competitors are struggling to contend with.

Through its online shopping platform, OPENSHOPEN, and the dramatic increase in merchants utilising the service, there is also a subsequent rise in the uptake of her SMERP cloud-based accounting and inventory systems; again, with CWG Plc being the partner of choice more often than not.

“We also have our financial service platform designed for microfinance banks that do not have the size of traditional banks but still needing advanced systems to provide the same services to young enterprises,” Okere notes. “We therefore deliver our service to them from the cloud and are seeing a big uptake in that where more and more SMEs are becoming increasingly active.”

The biggest growth, however, has been seen through its affiliation with Diamond Bank in Nigeria; its MTN-driven mobile money platform, Diamond Yello Account (DYA) generating 2.6 million subscribers, from a standing start, in just nine months.

“Diamond Bank has since had $145 million invested in them because of the great coverage and new accounts in the region,” Okere continues. “The growth has been exponential and the target now is to reach 60 million mobile money accounts, based on the amount of subscribers that MTN has in the country.”

Profitable partnerships

Longstanding partnerships with multinational heavyweights have been a linchpin for Computer Warehouse Group’s growth within Africa; the likes of Oracle, IBM, EMC, Cisco, Symantec amongst others, all adding value alongside the Company to bring the very best in IT solutions to the continent.

This stems from a much wider commitment that the Group has to continue being on top of the industry curve and ensuring that the solutions being unveiled to the market are the most necessary and innovative.

“We open people’s eyes as to what is available in terms of better costs and better efficiencies,” Okere says. “For instance, we have a training academy which is supported by the GEM ICT Cluster of the World Bank to help analyse trends and to build skill and capacity through quality technology training, to provide support to the teeming SMEs adopting technology to expand their businesses.”

Extracting samples of customers from its leading partners – namely within the finance and technology domains – Computer Warehouse Group utilises these readymade pools of people to research what they need, and subsequently what the partner needs to meet their customers’ requirements.

“We launch products into their ecosystems that provide value through technology to their customers that they are willing to pay for because they can be more efficient and more profitable,” Okere adds.  

Discovering a purpose

Having formed such a strong reputation in the region, the expectation on CWG Plc to continue innovating and investing is palpable, but the recognition also brings advantages in the form of skills attraction and an unparalleled feel-good factor that derives from having such a positive influence on the country.

“Attracting the required skills isn’t a problem, but we have to keep them motivated too, and we do that by continuing to be innovative and by going beyond what seems possible,” Okere enthuses. “This is where we have what we call ‘discovering our purpose’, and identifying the goal and motivation to go to work each day.

“What we see as key in discovering our purpose is making an impact in every sector and helping SMEs to grow their business.”

Having seen some businesses quintuple in size through using CWG Plc platforms, the ramifications delve even deeper into the Nigerian economy through the creation of more jobs, an increase in SMEs listing on the stock exchange and an all-round devotion to enhancing levels of education within the country via corporate social responsibility initiatives.

According to Austin, “if we can support each of the 17million SMEs in Nigeria to grow to the point where they employ one additional staff, we would have succeeded in creating 17 million more jobs in Nigeria, enough to absorb all the 16 million unemployed youths”.

The CEO adds: “Creating something very meaningful for the economy is the most satisfying and rewarding thing and it attracts employees and partners alike who want to identify with that purpose.”

Win-win

With a solid and sustainable, yet flexible, plan in place through its 2.0 model, CWG Plc’s target for the future is as simple as generating more subscribers across its platforms, to generate equally lucrative revenue streams, both internally and for its partners and customers.

A history of achieving just this has laid the foundations for such growth, but the Company is determined not to rest on its laurels as it continues to strive for new knowledge and new ideas.

“Our competitive advantages are our innovation firstly, but also our ability to learn how to learn,” Okere concludes. “We are not happy to just know something; you have to always adapt and be ahead of the innovation curve in order to see more than anyone else, before anyone else and clearer than anyone else.

“This is what we did five years ago when everyone asked why we were changing our model, and we are doing the same now to put the building blocks in place for the next five years.

“We see ourselves as starting a business revolution in Africa, where we win, our customers win, and our partners win; because it’s not just about revenues, but about doing what is best for the continent.”