24 Jun 2016

"I have spent all my life in the technology of communications, I am very proud of that" - Full video interview with Andile Ngcaba

The full video interview is here.

We caught up with Convergence Partners chairman Andile Ngcaba to talk about his background and experience in the African telco sector, the growth and development he has seen on the continent and his investment firm's plans for the future.

Engage with us here:



22 Jun 2016

Networking at West Africa Com 2016: The regional platform for the ICT and the West African digital sector

By Sofia Indtaher - VIP Relations Executive, KNect365 at Informa

West Africa Com in Dakar, formerly known as Connecting West Africa Com, brought together the Francophone and Anglophone markets of West Africa. The event offered a VIP environment for executives in the telecommunications, ICT, digital and enterprise sectors to meet, exchange ideas and conduct business. This is the leading annual event in the region for those in the ICT and telecommunications sectors, in both the private and public spheres.

This year’s West Africa Com gathered a large range of attendees from some of the biggest and the most imminent international enterprises, such as: Orange, Expresso Telecom, Sonatel, Atlantique Telecom, Google, Africa Open Innovation, Vodafone Ghana, Tigo. We also had the pleasure of welcoming government entities like the Senegalese Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the Government of Sierra Leone and representatives from UNESCO.

Our attendees were not only attending the annual forum for the West African digital, ICT and telco sectors, but they could also meet with their peers through a diverse range of networking opportunities. Attendees could choose from our speed networking sessions, hosted lunch tables, a VIP pool-side networking cocktail party, as well as pre-arranged one-to-one meetings between sponsors, VIPs and delegates. 

“Really interesting meetings that could potentially lead to future partnerships. Interesting and fun way to network as well. Thank you for including this new concept to what is supposed to be a very formal setting.”
Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Fall - Head of IT, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development Senegal

One of our most well received networking activities were the two executive speed networking sessions, which ran each morning. Executive speed networking is an informal but structured networking platform where VIPs, sponsors and exhibitors get to meet key like-minded industry leaders. The purpose of these sessions is to enable companies to present their businesses to the relevant people and spark a common interest between buyers and sellers. If both sides find their offerings of interest, they have the opportunity to exchange their business cards and schedule further meetings that might lead to future collaborations. What delegates favoured was the more relaxed and casual setting where they could enjoy exchanging and talking about their respective businesses. Many VIPs and sponsors managed to close deals thanks to the executive speed networking sessions they attended during the conference. 
“West Africa Com is the door for telecom operators. Africa Operators have the opportunity to exchange with suppliers with the same level of performance of the GSMA events. Well done!”
Khadim Rassoul Diop - Field Operation Director, Expresso Telecom

Further to the speed networking sessions, we offered our sponsors a one-to-one meeting programme. This is an additional opportunity for companies to increase their visibility and enable them to talk further about their products with their key audience. These pre-scheduled meetings happened to be crucial and very beneficial for both VIPs and sponsors, as they could understand each other better and take the time to discuss their respective business interests in more detail. This tailored and more personalised approach was thoroughly enjoyed by all who took part in these networking sessions.

“For me it’s a 10 out of 10 for this event and special thanks to Sofia who arranged extra meetings for us when we asked her to help us out. Looking forward to the next edition!”
Gershon Guther - VP Sales, Equatel

As a part of the conference and as a further networking opportunity, we organised a pool-side cocktail party for our attendees who enjoyed networking under the sun with a glass of wine. As organisers, we always try to understand our audience and find the interest of all our attendees considering their religions, beliefs, or even their eating restrictions.
West Africa Com took place during the Holy Month of Ramadan in a country where more than 95% of inhabitants are Muslims. Because of this, we thought that the attendance rate would be way lower than previous years, but it wasn’t the case, we still had a lot of people coming to enjoy the conference as the interest in telecommunications, ICT, digital and broadband in the region is really high. 

"Among those meetings, around 60% can be potential deals in the future. Thanks a lot to Sofia who did her best to facilitate those meetings between Intelsat and the attendees. Thanks”
Lin Candide Avahouin – Sales Director, Intelsat

At West Africa Com, year after year, we want to make sure our guests, VIPs and sponsors find their advantage by meeting as many relevant delegates as possible onsite. Our main objective is to ensure that we meet our audience expectations in the best way possible and make our events more and more attractive to increase attendance year on year.

Based on a general satisfaction from our VIPs, delegates and sponsors, we hope to see you next year to enjoy more of our VIP offerings at future events.

If you would like to learn more about networking opportunities at West Africa Com or any other Com World Series event, please get in contact with Sofia Indtaher, VIP Relations Executive at Informa here.

"I envision Africa, 30 years from now, becoming the digital continent" - Andile Ngcaba Interview

Coming soon to the Com Series blog and YouTube channel...

Here is a sneak preview of our interview with Andile Ngcaba, chairman of Convergence Partners.

With a vibrant and varied background working to accelerate the socio-economic growth and development not only in his home country of South Africa, but the continent at large, Andile brings 35 years of experience in the tech and telecommunications sectors, in order to continue to build what he terms “digital Africa”.

Engage with us here:

14 Jun 2016

3 tips to ensure your communication objectives are aligned with your business vision

By Ronell Swartbooi - DUO Marketing + Communications  

I’ve seen technology companies shifting their business goals three to four times within an eighteen-month period. This is understandable, as economies change, markets become more competitive or are disrupted by startups, new investors coming on board or target audiences changing. No matter the reason, being forced to shift business goals can be taxing on your business.

While you are focusing on business strategy and product enhancements or new product developments, consider how your communications team can support this process? How can they back the product and sales team and provide peace of mind when you are ready to go to market?

Here are a few key points to consider:

Ensure that your communications team fully understands current business shifts. The value of monthly business updates to your communications team goes a long way, if your goal is to ensure that all your stakeholders are in the know, and that potential customers reading any news updates about your business - across all available platforms - understand your current offering and value proposition.  

To avoid being on the backfoot: 

Encourage engagement between your developer / product teams and the communications team. Make this a fun exercise and use gamification tools if you need to in order to bridge the conversation between the geeks and the creatives. Why? This allows two very distinct teams to provide clarity on how they support each other, how their work complements another team’s results and very importantly, it avoids miscommunication to external audiences. The worst is reading an article that needs correction when you have already done the work to put it out there. 

Do a Google search to see if news online reflects the messages you want your audiences to see. If you are not impressed by what you see, it’s time to beef up your communication outputs. Review your content marketing , have a chat with your SEO person (if you don’t have one, aim to get a once-off analysis). All I’m saying is, do not underestimate the harmful influence outdated online content can have on your business. It has the potential to counter the hard work of your sales team and executives travelling to expos.

“In the absence of clear communication that satisfies the urgent desire to know what the boss is really thinking, people imagine all kinds of motives. The result is often sloppy behavior and misalignment that can cost a company dearly. Precious time is wasted, rumors abound, talented people lose their focus, big projects fail.” Harvard Business Review, The Five MessagesLeaders Must Manage (2006) 


Every company with or without a dedicated communications team, needs to have the following documents at hand. By developing and updating these quarterly, your communications team stays on top of specific business changes, and management gets into the habit of sharing relevant shifts that impact external communications.

  1. Company fact sheet (for the media and stakeholders): Similar to the About section on your website. An updated, one-pager that your team can easily attach or paste into an email. This comes in handy and saves times when stakeholders or the media have quick questions and no time to search your website.
  2. Key messaging / keywords/ quotes (for spokespersons): This one-pager provides executives and your communications team with a golden thread to keep all communications aligned with business goals. Never underestimate the value of making your executive team feel confident that they are sharing the right message. By also providing your communications team with well-researched keywords, they can ensure that your SEO ranking is on point when developing blogs, thought leadership and case studies etc.
  3. Updated executive bios, including high resolution photos and updated LinkedIn profiles: Often these tools are underrated. The worst is when media decide to Google and use a 5 year old photo of an executive at a conference in bad lighting. This is a once off annual exercise that can save you time in the long term, and could potentially make or break a feature opportunity in a business print publication.
Watch this space for Part 2: How to shift from startup to enterprise messaging.

About Ronell Swartbooi:


Ronell Swartbooi, currently works as a Tech PR Account Manager at DUO Marketing + Communications. Her passion for communications and networking with entrepreneurs is what inspired her to change careers to technology PR. Africa’s rapid growth in technology is what has fueled her interest to communicate innovation out of Africa. 

Prior to tech PR, Ronell worked in the nonprofit sector as a project manager for seven years, facilitating a youth media & leadership project. She dabbled in blogging and website admin/ basic HTML before blogger influencers were a thing. 

Ronell has attained a degree in Media Studies at the University of Cape Town, as well as short course diplomas in Marketing and Public Relations at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

7 Jun 2016

7 global tech giants supporting African startups


By Tom JacksonDisrupt Africa

Global tech companies are increasingly seeing the opportunities available to them in Africa and establishing larger presences on the continent in search of digital’s “final frontier”.

But this isn’t necessarily bad news for African tech startups, as many of these major global players are keen on developing the continent’s tech startup ecosystem, for a number of reasons.

Here are seven major tech players that are, in many different ways, playing their part in encouraging the development of Africa’s tech scene.


Where to begin. Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative has been a pioneer when it comes to corporate engagement with Africa, with a focus on increasing connectivity and encouraging entrepreneurship. The company is of course building a market of Microsoft customers, but its initiatives have proven beneficial to African startups.

To list but a few, the company has launched a fund for startups focused on internet access, partnered ALN Ventures, AMPION and DEMO Africa, extended the frontiers of its BizSpark programme for startups, worked to bring Kenyan SMEs online, launched a cloud initiative in Nigeria, and signed a strategic partnership with a Tunisian startup. Likely to get busier.


Most of Facebook’s activity in Africa has been around its Internet.org project, which by working to make internet access more affordable to more Africans is in itself a major bonus for the continent’s tech startups. But the company is working on having a more direct impact too.

The company is working on building strong relationships with a number of hubs across the continent, and was a co-sponsor of the Hack for Big Choices event in Ghana. Its major play is the recently-launched Internet.org Innovation Challenge in Africa, which looks to recognise African developers working on apps, websites and services for learning and economic empowerment, and rewards winners with US$150,000.


Has long been active in Africa with its Umbono and Google for Entrepreneurs programmes, but seems to have gone quite quiet. Yet Google is still relatively active within the continent’s tech ecosystem, backing a couple of hubs across the continent and partnering some startups.

Initiatives in Africa include training in digital skills, running an exchange programme, offering marketing bootcamps, running digital workshops for women, and rewarding hubs. Remains quietly influential and has the infrastructure to play a big part.


Not as “cool” as Facebook and Google, Cisco is nonetheless quietly getting on with a couple of initiatives serving African tech startups, in the acceleration and financing spaces.

The company has partnered Intel (see below) and Deutsche Telekom to launch Challenge Up!, an Internet of Things (IoT) accelerator for startups from the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Meanwhile, Cisco Capital has launched easylease, a low-rate financing programme, in South Africa, in a bid to help SMEs invest in next generation technology.


A key partner in the IoT accelerator mentioned above, Intel has a direct impact on African startups through its work in the acceleration space across the continent.

The company has partnered the University of Nairobi’s C4DLab to launch a tech incubation programme for Kenyan startups, while it also partnered the Lagos-based Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) to run the Growth Academy accelerator programme. Has also launched Developer Zones in Lagos and Johannesburg.


The company is best known in Africa for its SmartCamps, which take place in Cairo, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Nairobi, but IBM is gradually scaling up its activities within the startup ecosystem.

It has begun partnering with startups, notably software development startup Digijiz, located at the SEDA Nelson Mandela Bay ICT Incubator (SNII) in Port Elizabeth, while its focus has also shifted to innovation spaces. It launched one such space at the iHub in Nairobi last year, and will invest US$61 million over the next ten years in a new laboratory at the University of Witwatersrand’s Tshimogolong Precinct tech hub in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.


Active in development and support primarily, SAP has gradually spread itself across Africa when it comes to assisting the growth of the startup ecosystem.

It has offered product development support to South African startups, and taken East African startups to Silicon Valley as part of its fellowship programme. It has focused on skills development in the same region, while it has also launched a startup support programme in North Africa.

About Tom Jackson:

Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found scoping out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem. He is co-founder of African tech startups news site Disrupt Africa and is based out of Cape Town, Nairobi and Lagos. Tom was a speaker at last year's AfricaCom as well as a Com World Series media partner.

Website: Tom Jackson
Disrupt Africa
Twitter: Tom Jackson
Disrupt Africa
LinkedIn: Tom Jackson
Disrupt Africa

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2 Jun 2016

Meeting, collaborating and forging partnerships - networking at East Africa Com 2016

By Sarah Nemeth - VIP Relations Executive, KNect365 at Informa

Last month’s East Africa Com in Nairobi served as a central hub for the East African tech and telecommunications community to engage in discussion, collaborate and grow their business network.

Throughout the years, East Africa Com has evolved into the must-attend forum for the East African ICT and telecommunications industry. As such, East Africa Com prides itself on being the region’s number one networking platform. Our conference attendees are among some of the biggest and most prestigious international enterprises, such as: Unilever, Kenya Airways, National Bank of Kenya, the BBC, DHL and KenGen. Also in attendance were government entities like the Kenya Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Kenyan Ministry of ICT and the United Nations.  

As varied as the attendees and the topics up for discussion this year, so was the vast array of networking opportunities to choose from. The platforms available ranged from an exclusive VIP dinner, speed networking sessions, a networking pool-side after party sponsored by icolo.io, as well as pre-arranged one-to-one introductions.

“Networking receptions are very well received in East Africa – it is a very enthusiastic environment”
Penuel Ongwae - CIO, Nestle Kenya

The evening prior to the event saw our VIP guests, speakers and sponsors join the East Africa team for a VIP dinner comprised of exquisite food and engaging conversation. The dinner reception was privately held at the Radisson Blu Hotel and attended by C-level telecommunication operators such as: Safaricom, Zantel and Tigo, alongside industry analyst Ovum. The leading event sponsors such as Papersoft, Huawei and SES were also among our VIP attendees. The dinner served to introduce all our VIP guests and sponsors in a relaxed environment ahead of the busy 2 day conference.

“The East Africa Com 2016 VIP dinner presented a great networking opportunity for me. We had great conversations on the themes and topics of the conference.The crowd at the dinner event was just awesome”
Danson Njue
- Research Analyst, Ovum
A key feature of Informa events is the executive speed networking feature, which is held over both days of the conference. These sessions have proved to be one of our most popular interaction opportunities because it allows VIP guests, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors to network in an informal but structured setting. Speed networking gives company decision-makers, investors, start-ups, government leaders and vendors the opportunity to meet and introduce their businesses and services in short, timed sessions. If buyers and sellers find eachother’s offerings attractive, they have a chance to exchange business cards and meet again later in the day for an extended one-on-one discussion.
“Speed Networking facilitates business opportunities – some of the biggest industry projects have grown over the years through contacts made during the sessions at our events”

“The opportunity to meet and interact with solution providers that are creating future-shaping technologies has opened my eyes to new possibilities we as a telco could explore, to serve our customers better and grow our business.”

Marta Paiar - Head of Sales Transformation, Safaricom

We continuously strive to optimize the networking offerings at our events and understand our audience better. In co-operation with icolo.io we introduced the networking pool-side after party on the evening of the first day. This party, which was open to all conference attendees and partners, was a huge success and was attended by over 300 event guests.

At events such as East Africa Com we ensure our VIP guests and sponsors meet their target audience by offering tailored and pre-arranged one-to-one meetings with their preferred audience from the telecommunication and digital technology sector. Unlike the short session offered at speed networking, the one-to-one sessions are in-depth private meetings. This networking feature gives both parties the chance to discuss future projects and cooperation in detail behind closed doors.
“East Africa Com was a great opportunity to network with some of the most important Kenyan telco and IT players. The meetings arranged by Informa were excellent and very relevant. We will take some great new contacts, conversations and ideas home with us”
Gonçalo Barata - Marketing Manager, Papersoft
The networking opportunities offered at East Africa Com this year were the most successful in the event’s history. The VIP relations team facilitated 450+ onsite meetings. We are delighted that the new networking functions such as the VIP dinner and the networking pool-side after party were so well received by the conference attendees. Based on the great success this year we look forward to further extending our networking offer in the coming years.

If you would like to learn more about networking opportunities at East Africa Com or any other Com World Series event, please get in contact with Sarah Nemeth, VIP Relations Executive at Informa here.

31 May 2016

The African Investment Insight: An interview with Andile Ngcaba


Investor, businessman, ex-policymaker, teacher, ANC freedom fighter, telecommunications expert, tech trend forecaster - they’re all applicable labels which can be used to describe Andile Ngcaba.

With a vibrant and varied background working to accelerate the socio-economic growth and development not only in his home country of South Africa, but the continent at large, Andile brings 35 years of experience in the tech and telecommunications sectors, in order to continue to build what he terms “digital Africa”.

We sat down with Andile following his Investor Insight address at East Africa Com to talk about his background, his life's passions and Convergence Partners' plans for the future - "watch this space!"

1. You have devoted a great deal of your life and career to the growth and development of ICT in Africa, from where did this interest and passion first stem?

This passion I was taught by my father, my father worked for the [South African] post office for over 40 years and he taught me. At that time, the post office was involved in telex and telecoms and that’s how I learnt, I learnt from him. Apart from learning from colleges and universities, he taught me how it’s important to facilitate communications between people, using technology and any other form of communications. 

"I have spent all my life in the technology of communications, specifically on the African continent - I am very proud of that"

So for the rest of my life I have dedicated myself to this, to say: “How do I operate and participate in the communications environment, in the information environment?” For the last 35 years or more, I have spent all my life in the technology of communications, specifically on the African continent. I am very proud of that and I will continue to do this because this is where I derive personal joy and fulfillment.

When I go to a village and people have never heard [about] communications and we put in a mast and connect and provide the microwave link and put Wi-Fi at the edge of that microwave link and people start to use Wi-Fi. We put in solar power to connect their batteries and you see the change - you don’t have to teach people, they go onto the internet, they know what they want, they know how to use the internet and they connect into the world of information. I see these things all the time.

"When we provide this kind of connectivity to villages who are in very mountainous areas, you see how important communications are to connect rural people"

Originally we come from a very small part of South Africa called Pondoland, this is a very remote part of the Eastern part [of the country] and when we provide this kind of connectivity to villages who are in very mountainous areas, you see how important communications are to connect rural people. But of course, we provide as Convergence Communications, even to the most modern and sophisticated Africa – we provide communications in Johannesburg, in Lagos, in Nairobi and in many other countries.

2. During Apartheid you were heavily involved in the struggle for a democratic South Africa, playing a key role in ANC [African National Congress] insurgency operations and communications. How do you think your background informs what you do today?

"Like any young person in the 70s in South Africa, because of the nature of our society, we all had to participate to ensure that South Africa was free"
I was at Philips before doing that – my background started at Philips, in the electronics division. I worked in all different electronics sections, departments and divisions of Philips. So like any young person in the 70s in South Africa, because of the nature of our society, we all had to participate to ensure that South Africa was free - that there was freedom in our country and people were able to vote, young people were able to access education and people could access opportunities equally.

"My role in that was in communications, in the ANC and in the military I was responsible for military communications"

We are now all happy with the fact that we now have a constitution that we are very proud of, that constitution belongs to all of us and that constitution defends us. Having been a part of the people who fought to make sure that Apartheid must not exist in our country - I am very proud of that. My role in that was in communications, in the ANC and in the military I was responsible for military communications, and that really was what my role had been.

Post that I got involved in policy development, I worked for government for almost 10 years, writing new policies in the post-Apartheid South Africa. After those 10 years, I went into business and this is what I do and will continue to do. But alongside all that I have been involved in research and innovation working with universities, assisting here and there, teaching part-time. Those are the things I live for, that’s what gives me fun and joy. 

3. Convergence Partners is celebrating 10 years this year, what would you say is its overriding ethos?

The ethos of Convergence is that of ensuring that we invest for the purposes of connecting people and connecting the people of Africa to the internet, and being able to provide them with basic infrastructure from fibre, right up to the most sophisticated technology that sits way on top of Cloud. So we are getting involved in all the value stack of ICT, internet or digital - whatever language you want to use. So that is what Convergence is all about.

We have companies that we have invested in and my philosophy is very simple: When you are on the African continent, as long as you are going to use any digital platform, you must use any of our technologies 6 times from morning until the time you go to bed. Whether it’s a sim card in your phone, whether it’s an SMS we have sent you with a notification, whether it’s an Internet of Thing in your house connecting your electricity or water, whether it’s the fibre that we build, whether it’s the fibre in the ocean or the land.

"I envision Africa 30 years from now...[becoming] the digital continent"

For any of our infrastructure, our view is we need to be involved and invest in West Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, in Sub-Saharan African - to make sure that we can continue to contribute building, what we call, 'digital Africa'. We are there and we will continue to do this for the rest of our lifetime, and those that continue with Convergence will continue on the same journey. We focus on tech, that is what we believe and when I share with you how Africa was 30 years ago, and how Africa is today, and how I envision Africa 30 years from now, this is going to become the digital continent. Why? Because we have a young population, because we have young people – young people enjoy technology. So the market is there and the opportunity is there. So in a billion people, whom over 60 % of them are young, you can’t go wrong.

4. Convergence Partners has been involved in a number incredibly significant infrastructure projects across the continent, among them Seacom and Intelsat New Dawn, what’s next for the company?

"We see East Africa as a very critical part in our investment journey as a private equity firm"

Watch this space, we are now at East Africa Com and by the time we reach Cape Town [at Africa Com in November] a lot will have happened, but I’m not going to reveal anything yet. But we do see East Africa as a very critical part in our investment journey as a private equity firm because East Africa is now moving towards that part of the curve, whereby people realise that they need equity investment, they need mezzanine, they need debt funding, they need other instruments – in all the tech companies that are here.

Similarly, as Convergence we are involved in a VC firm in South Africa as an LLP called 4Di. We hope to create those linkages between East Africa and Southern Africa basically, whereby we can bring knowledge around issues that are related to VC funding and issues related to start-ups, around incubation, acceleration, entrepreneurialship, and that culture which is emerging in this part of the world - these are some of the things we are looking at. At one level we are looking at a PE investment space but also East Africa is becoming a centre whereby this VC environment is becoming very interesting for a number of people. 

5. With regards to interactions between the private and public sector, which you have a great deal of experience in, are collaborations proving effective at these kinds of forums like East Africa Com? Do these interactions facilitate enough productive discussion to make a difference?

I think this is where as Convergence and Informa we need to work together to see how we can bring more regulators and more policy-makers onto this platform. The platform is wonderful – Cape Town, Nairobi – it is great. OEMs are here, MNOs are here, entrepreneurs are here, investors are here - we need to bring more policy-makers and regulators onto the platform.

"The people are great, the exhibition is great, and generally this is a great place to do business"

We are getting onto one billion mobile devices - this is not a small industry. So for us, under this platform of Informa, which is great and we appreciate and we will always be here, we need to engage with government and senior government people. So we would really like to have that dialogue with them, using this platform.

You have a cross section of various players, you have MNOs, OEMs and you have users and you also have system integrators and people who are really coming up with that application layer, or what I call the 'digital layer', so I think this combination of all different players in the ecosystem is very critical and we would like to invite more government people.

The people are great, the exhibition is great, and generally this is a great place to do business. People are making deals, we are talking to lots of people, we are investors, we have meeting rooms, we are scheduling meetings, we are speaking at the conference, we have an exhibition stand. So we are moving around, our day is full - it is packed and this is going to grow, I have no doubt about it. In no time there is going to be over a thousand people and good luck – East Africa is a good place to be.

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