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INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER: Neo Nwako

Last week, at a glamorous event held at Gaborone’s Masa Square Hotel Casino, Abari Communications officially unveiled its new trading name, Abaricom.

The launch, which included the unveiling of a new logo, marks the dawn of a new era for the Internet Service Providers (ISP) as they strive to conform to international standards.

With two other operations based in Mozambique and Kenya, Abaricom has established itself amongst the top ISP’s with a collection of small to medium-sized businesses, parastatals and large corporate clients, which include First National Bank (FNB) and Bokamoso Hospital.

The entity that was born from two friends chatting over a couple of drinks has blossomed into a countrywide network with 45 points of presence across Botswana and close to 500 connections for business and corporate customers.

This week, Voice Money’s Lame Modise sat down with Abaricom’s Managing Director, Neo Nwako at his office in Commerce Park, Gaborone, to find out a little more about the man and the company he founded in 2009.

Q. I believe Abaricom came out (to the media and the public) last week after trading in the local industry for almost a decade. Why did it take eight years for Abaricom to finally reveal its brand?

A. Yes, that is a true observation. We had never in the past advertised either on radio, television, print media or even billboards.

The thinking was to make sure we build reputable networks and a client base first. We wanted to first build a solid operation and ensure we cover all our bases.

There had to be no room for mishaps before we came out. Our marketing strategy was word of mouth and great service delivery.

Q. Previously, Abaricom’s primary function was providing Internet services to corporate clients – are we going to see an inclusion of personal Internet provision in residential areas?

A. Yes, we are actually working on a strategy where the Internet will be free to all because we believe that the Internet goes a long way in connecting people as well as in the dissemination of information.

Free Internet opens up a lot of doors for many opportunities.

Q. Wouldn’t that harm your overheads? How will you make money?

A. Our strategy is to sell subscriptions to products that use the Internet such as Netflicks, Showmax and others where clients can download movies, series as well as videos.

Browsing the Internet and chatting online will be extras.

Q. Abaricom has been a player in the industry for some time now; how have you found operating in the local industry?

A. I would compare Abaricom’s story to that of David and Goliath. We were a small citizen owned company that stood and fought against a giant such as Botswana

Telecommunications Corporation and ultimately emerged victorious. I believe we were instrumental in the decimation of the monopoly by this ‘giant’ in the local market.

Q. How would you respond to the claim that government is not doing enough to help innovators?

A. As the Board Chair of Business Botswana Information and Communication and Technology (ICT) Sector, I believe that innovation has the potential to transform the country and empower the people.

There is so much that can be done in the country without necessarily depending on the government.

Q. Please clarify what you mean.

A. I wish Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) would be the glue that binds the private sector, academia, and innovators to ensure the development of a thriving environment for innovation.

Most innovations in the world came from hard work and being savvy enough to source funds for the business, not necessarily from the government.

Q. How did you become involved in the ISP business?

A. I had always been in the ICT sector and I got engrossed in telecommunications after realising a gap in the industry.

A friend and I came up with the idea over a couple of drinks.

It was really a case of two minds coming together to grow this business.

Q. Did your business partner have any telecommunication background?

A. Not at all. He is a lawyer. I remember how he always insisted on talking to clients because he felt he could articulate our ideas better than me.

Q. Are you still in business together?

A. Yes, we are still working together. He is heading our Kenya operation.

Q. Abaricom trades in three African countries being Botswana, Mozambique, and Kenya. What are your expansion plans for the future?

A. We are looking at expanding into Southern and Eastern Africa. We want to go into all the Pan-African English speaking nations.