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Liquid Telecom acting CEO Roberts speaks out on turning around East African operations

Rebecca Wanjiku | Feb. 4, 2014
Tackling the complex task of getting facilities back on track and merged with Liquid operations.

IDGNS: When Altech took over, it did away with the smaller customers who had been with KDN for a long time; is the company interested in SMEs now?
Roberts: Smaller customers are as important as the big ones. In other countries we have a wholesale and retail division, like in Zimbabwe. The retail company focuses on SMEs. We have segregated companies by products; (bigger companies are) in one folder and end users are in another folder but with the same company.

IDGNS: Race and expatriate hiring was a big issue in Altech East Africa, how has that changed?
Roberts: They were 25 expatriates when we took over before, but now Liquid Telecom has five expatriates out of 750 employees in Africa. However, we (have) employees from different countries working across the 11 countries we are operational in. We are against racial discrimination.

IDGNS: How do you describe the financial stability of the company?
Roberts: It has taken about seven months to get the point of steady growth of customer numbers. We are now breaking even and to be honest we thought it would take longer for the company to be stable again. We have many bridges to rebuild with contractors and customers. We are now back in better terms with Soliton Telemec, the company that built KDN fiber infrastructure, which had also sued KDN.

IDGNS: Kenya is a challenging market in itself — how is it different from the other markets?
Roberts: In my previous role as CTO of Liquid Telecom, I have interacted extensively with Africa's international networks, Internet backbone, voice and data and I am familiar with the region. Kenya is different because it's a much bigger market and international companies are setting up their East African or African headquarters in the country. For example; IBM, Cisco and Microsoft among others.

South Africa is also (part) of an international hub but Kenya is very different and there is drive by the government. I could say it's challenging and competitive but also big and expanding

IDGNS: The Kenya Internet Exchange point is migrating it services to a Liquid Telecom data center, how will the public benefit?
Roberts: The Liquid Telecom Data Center covers over 2,000 square feet and has a world-class connection, redundant power and connectivity. KIXP previously suffered power outages, which can affect the market. With the wealth of connectivity, KIXP can compete with other IXPs like the Johannesburg IXP, which has connections from Botswana and Namibia.

We are very excited to be in the Kenyan market and we will further develop our relationship with the market.


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