Realising East Africa’s potential
With huge support from the AKFED, Smart East Africa has a reputation for providing innovations to the telecoms sector
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project Manager Donovan Smith
New contenders in the East African telecoms market, Smart telecom are making waves in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, under the name Smart East Africa. The company provides a range of innovative products to suit your lifestyle, and has become notoriously known in recent months for outstanding value-for- money packages to suit your wallet.
Smart telecom is owned in-part by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), with their parent company being Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) Kenya. AKFED has been funding social enterprises across East Africa for over 100 years, making long-term investments with the aim of building economically sound businesses that create employment and improve lives. “The AKFED has a 61% share in Smart telecom and helps in all areas of the economy in East Africa; from banking to insurance, education and other infrastructures. The missing piece was communication in order to link all of this together,” explains Abdellatif Bouziani, Group Chief Executive Officer of Smart East Africa Telecom.
Improving the Lives of East Africans
The launch of Smart in East Africa in March 2014 also combines AKFED’s experience of making long-term investments with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship and building economically sound enterprises, which provide employment opportunities and improve the lives of local people. In East Africa, AKFED’s investments include the Serena Hotels, Diamond Trust Bank, Jubilee Insurance Group, the Nation Media Group and IPS’s diverse portfolio of projects in infrastructure (Bujagali and Tsavo power projects) as well as investments in manufacturing.
AKFED’s parent organisation, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), has been making a positive impact on the lives of East Africans for more than a century. “We look forward to many years of building on the investments that sister AKDN organisations have been making across Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda,” cites Bouziani.
Smart Telecom Launches Cheapest Call Rate in Uganda
The telecom industry in Uganda is currently witnessing a new wave of price wars following the launch of Smart telecom’s cheapest call rate, which will enable subscribers to make an entire call, no matter the length, at only Shs74, making Smart telecom the cheapest telecom company in the market. The existing telecoms charge an average of Shs270 per minute. Justifying this low call rate, Bouziani said: “we asked them what they wanted from us and they said they wanted to make calls without being under pressure of time that’s why we are offering subscribers an opportunity to make a call which costs one price, without compromising on service quality; which we call smart pricing.”
Moreover, Smart Telecom have made efforts so that customers can enjoy the use of their SIM across all three countries of operation in East Africa as Bouziani highlights: “We like to make our customers feel at home, hence why there are no higher rates charged in these countries. We consider ourselves to be one network.” With sufficient infrastructures already in place thanks to the AKFED, Smart Telecom have been able to ensure the latest technologies are in place from day 1; this includes 2G, 3G and 4G services across all of their markets.
Innovative Business Model
Smart Telecom’s strategy in East Africa is to bring AKFED’s social enterprise business model and reputation for innovation and customer service to the telecommunications sector in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. “AKFED leverage more than ten years of telecommunications experience to make Smart East Africa the operator of choice. Together with AKFED’s other entities, we have extensive experience in emerging markets, particularly in East Africa,” Bouziani adds: “Our business model is based on getting enough people to use our unique products and services and be able to get returns based on margins. I believe this investment was well calculated and will bring back returns after we build a customer base, which has a primary aim to better service and assist our customers.”
As a company that thrives off support from their customers, Bouziani considers CSR activities a vital part of Smart Telecom’s success: “Word of mouth is important for us. We are not just here to make big numbers, we want people to join us who understand our offering and want to have the best services at the best price.” Further to this approach, Smart telecom received its name directly from potential customers. “Our customer-centric approach is exemplified by the Give us a Name campaign. This in itself is an innovation as nobody has dared to start a company without a name before, yet we dared to. We shortlisted 7 names out of 70,000 submissions that had been suggested by East Africans asked them what they would expect in terms of service provision and then aligned our business to their suggestions. We let you choose our name, because we are your network!” Bouziani commented.
Smart is proud to be part of the East African infrastructure and community. “We are excited to help connect the people of the region to one another and to the rest of the world,” Bouziani continues: “We are confident that the combination of our world class telecommunications technology and innovative products and services will transform the lives of East Africans, just as they have elsewhere. We look forward to being your carrier of choice.”
Smart Telecom think of themselves as: “fun and exciting, because you made us that way.” the company believes that we all have the potential for greatness in our hands, and will continue to further their East African reach, with expansion plans on the cards. “We are building today for a brighter tomorrow, by realising our potential and helping you realise yours. Together we can make a difference and really go places. Smart is the new mobile network for a new Africa. It is a network for the people and we are in it for the long term.”