The ICT industry has been transforming the lives of people around the world over the last few decades. This digital transformation is responsible for driving major changes in Egypt and the MEA region, and has had substantial positive impacts on governance, economies and societies as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation efforts, as countries, governments and people worldwide adapt to our new norm. In this exclusive interview, Telecom Review spoke to Eng. Ahmed Mekky, CEO and Chairman of Benya Group, one of the leading advocates for digital transformation as a human right in Egypt and the MEA region.
Digital access should be a basic human right. What role does Benya Group play in achieving this goal?
At Benya Group, we are dedicated to building a digitally united and smart MEA region. Through our subsidiaries, Benya group operates across various ICT verticals, offering a wealth of products, services and digital solutions. Our portfolio includes telecommunication services, cloud, security solutions and data centers, as well as manufacturing technology-based solutions and systems integration. Our full-fledged scope and portfolio enable businesses to adjust to changing market needs efficiently. Our goal is to ultimately contribute to the promotion of connectivity as a basic human right for all people, across the Middle East and Africa. We believe that connectivity represents much more than just internet access, it represents bridging the gap and providing the developing nations with equal access to a wealth of knowledge and tools, as is currently enjoyed by the developed nations.
What strategies does Benya Group adopt to strengthen connectivity and infrastructure in Egypt? Can you cite some of the milestones achieved so far?
Working in an industry that is at the forefront of technological advancement, productivity and efficiency, it is only natural that our operational strategy is in alignment with and focuses on delivering quality products and services efficiently. Egypt's Vision 2030 has provided Benya Group with the framework needed to aid us in delivering advanced and innovative technological solutions, which have supported the development of smart cities and improved the education, telecommunication, transportation and banking sectors, among others. As the leading digital solutions and ICT infrastructure provider in Egypt and the MEA region, Benya Group has collaborated with several ministries on nationwide projects, including, but not limited to the following notable milestones:
- Through the signing of an agreement between Benya Group and the Ministry of communications and information technology (MCIT), the Arab organization for industrialization (AOI), and a number of top-tier multinational corporations, Benya Systems (a subsidiary of Benya Group) is responsible for the implementation of the Smart Application System, which will be used to manage and operate the first phase of the Knowledge City at the new administrative capital in Egypt (NAC)
- Benya Group, has also been proudly contributing to building, managing, and operating one of the first shared towers in the NAC, which provides coverage for all network users and accommodates up to five operators at the lowest possible cost in accordance with international standards.
- Through a partnership with the MCIT and Dell Technologies, Benya will build and operate the first and largest data center for artificial intelligence.
- Benya was awarded the largest digital transformation project in the region to implement a state-of-the-art ERP solution for the 60 subsidiaries of the ministry of public enterprise.
- Benya is responsible for implementing the technological infrastructure for several projects in the NAC and the government district. In addition to building the largest cloud data centers in the Middle East and Africa, Benya will also be responsible for supplying and installing over 200 thousand smart meters for water and electricity services at the NAC in cooperation with Telecom Egypt.
- Benya was responsible for the deployment of the indoor FO network for the urban communities authority and the new olympic city in Egypt, and managed the allocation of the FTTX network for Telecom Egypt, which covers 30 zones/900 buildings.
What elements do you consider key to achieving digital transformation in the Middle East?
Many believe that digital transformation is a process of calculated variables aimed at supplying specific solutions and services, but the key to understanding it, is through understanding the heterogeneous and agile nature of “digitalization.” The more flexible the solution is, the better it serves people’s needs. Digital transformation was created for the purpose of supporting and enhancing people’s lives, thus, it is the people who will continue to be the core and the benchmark used to assess the success of any digital initiative. The same goes for data. In the past, analysts used to categorize data in terms of structured tables and numerical figures, however, data collection has evolved and continuously changes to reflect consumer activity; it now represents anything that can be digitized. Finally, we must use diverse tools and techniques to deal with different types of data and to reach different audiences.
How is Benya Group connecting networks locally and across Africa?
The vision and driving force of Benya since inception, has been our commitment to digitally unite the MEA region. Building on our solid successes in developing and digitally transforming the Egyptian market, we have replicated these successes and expanded our reach into Africa. We strongly believe that now is the right time to invest in Africa’s digital transformation. As the one of the leading ICT infrastructure and digital transformation groups in the region, we see endless opportunities for growth in the African market and solidify our commitment to establishing a digital Africa.
Earlier this year, Benya Group signed a shareholder agreement with Société Congolaises des Postes et Télécommunications (SCPT) to establish Benya Telecom DRC, a new local operator, to build and operate a national Optical Fiber Network of (NFON). This network will link cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and facilitate communication with the neighboring countries.
Our new arm in DRC will work on three axes: financing and implementing an integrated optical fiber network, establishing data centers and building shared towers.
With a vision of meeting the growing demand of local and regional markets, Benya Group founded Benya Cables, the largest fiber optic solutions manufacturer and provider in the region. In collaboration with the leading industrial organization in the region, the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI) and Corning Inc., the factory, will utilize state-of-the-art production lines serving the needs of Egypt and the MEA region.
Benya Group explores promising talents and scales existing potential startups in the digital arena through its investment arm “Benya Ventures.” Can you tell us more about how it helps in building a digital future?
We are convinced of the substantial benefits brought by the venture capital investment not only to startups but also to the overall economy. We want to encourage promising early-stage businesses and to promote innovation and growth in the industry. This inspired us to set up Benya Ventures. Through this financial investment arm, Benya Group will play a significant role in supporting entrepreneurs across Egypt and the MEA region by investing in high-potential digital startups in order to maximize Benya Group footprint in the startup ecosystem.
Your journey as a leader in the digital transformation field has started as a pioneer entrepreneur looking forward to connecting people via technology. How do you and your company empower youth today?
Africa has always been the land of opportunities. It is full of resources and human capital, being the world’s youngest continent with 20% of the total population aged 15-24 years and 40% even younger.
As an entrepreneur in one of the most critical and challenging sectors, I understand the challenges startups face and the importance of supporting them to thrive. As part of our efforts to support digital innovation and entrepreneurship, Benya Group sponsored the Africa IoT & AI Challenge, which was organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The challenge aimed to develop qualified technical calibers specialized in IoT and AI, to accelerate digital transformation in the MEA region. The challenge’s activities align with Benya’s strategy of adopting initiatives that develop and nurture the skills of youth in the tech industry, supporting young entrepreneurs and promoting innovation and growth in the digital sector in Egypt and the Middle East.