A leader in mobile and fixed, IP and optics technologies and a pioneer in applications and services, Alcatel-Lucent, includes Bell Labs, one of the world’s foremost centers of research and innovation in communication technology. With operations in more than 130 countries and the most experienced global services organization in the industry, Alcatel-Lucent is a local partner with a global reach. Alcatel-Lucent achieved revenues of Euro 15.3 billion in 2011 and is incorporated in France and headquartered in Paris. Daniel Jaeger, Vice President of Africa for Alcatel-Lucent talkss about his companies interest’s in Ethiopia.
Capital: How are you looking to gain from the forum?
Daniel Jaeger: I think you can gain from this forum in different ways, in that you can meet with people that are in the same environment, I wouldn’t even say industry or market because you meet people that are from the business community, government officials, people that have come from the world, there are people who try to help, and there are people who try to make money. You have to just widely define a group of people that have a common interest in Africa and meeting those people, discussing with them, making connections. The second part would be to dive deeper into the situation of the continent. From a business point of view we tend to look at places where business can be done fast in the telecommunication industry, we focus on the markets where we see there are big growth in telecommunication.
Capital: Are you going to meet with some officials of the telecommunication sector?
Jaeger: Yes. But not specifically in Ethiopia only, but Ethiopia is a special market from the telecommunications point of view. Because most of the other markets in Africa or at least the bigger countries tend to have three or four mobile operators, I would say the situation here in Ethiopia is still different and we will see how it develops. Knowing that the agenda is tight I haven’t scheduled any meeting here with the local players but I will plan to do it for sure in the future. As a company we have a weak presence in Ethiopia but I see the potential of the place where we want to engage strongly. But as I said, it goes hand in hand with market development.
Capital: Actually you were the first ones to enter the Ethiopian market previously many years back. But now you aren’t doing anything.
Jaeger: I think over the last few years or even for more than a decade, the focus of our telecommunication endeavors was the traditional name. Now we tend to call ourselves solution providers because we try not to just be boxed in but provide a solution for our customers to focus on countries where there is strong business. I see that there is a lot of interest in Ethiopia from people like us, but also from the international operators, from the African ones of course but also from outside the continent. We see the potential, this is a huge country with a big population there’s market but it just depends on the regulatory environment, if this market is opened I am sure a lot of us solution providers and operators will be pretty much interested in investing here and working in Ethiopia.
Capital: Do you have hopes that the monopoly will be changed?
Jaeger: I don’t know but I can hope, but we’re giving our messages and we understand that this is a governmental decision on how to structure a sector. I do understand that there are some others pointing out to the government and stakeholders that there’s a big challenge in a lot of sense. There is business that can be done which in turn will generate other business with local companies no matter who would be the next operator or even this company will create jobs directly or indirectly locally. And of course as we know competition is done in a normal or smart way, then this will drive the prices down, enabling the bigger part of the population to afford all kinds of telecom services and all kinds of advanced services.
Capital: How is your business in general in Africa compared to other similar service providers?
Jaeger: Today the industry of solution providers is a rather tough one, a strong competitive pressure. Probably there always has been a strong competitive pressure but clearly it has changed. For us it’s still important to maintain full portfolio, what we have today in our portfolio basically what our customers, the telecom operators need, be it radio access or transmission network or the submarine cable where we’re very successful at the moment in and around Africa. So that’s the full portfolio which is important to us, whereas of course there are new competitors which came over the last year from China in particular. While we see the traditional competitors we have, like other European companies narrowing down their reach and focusing on parts of the technologies but not providing the end to end as we call it anymore. I guess the competition is there and still very strong of course it’s changing with the players and their strategies.
Capital: How are you planning to compete with Chinese companies who come up with finance for projects?
Jaeger: We see that not only in Ethiopia but also many places in Africa, it’s just not about the solution, it’s about making the whole package of it which consists of the product, the financing but also on the support system. Not every operator in Africa or generally in emerging countries has the skills within his own team which can run a unit immediately. We see it with a lot of operators immediately, we see it with more and more operators, also to the management of the solution or to manage it with the different models it has. At least to manage it in the beginning, for the first 12 months we will take the responsibility for actually managing a network on day to day basis. In this period we’ve trained the people of the operator and after 12 months we would hand it over. So that’s still the packaging that’s indeed different, I agree on the point financing becomes more and more important.