INTERNET access provider, Liquid Telecom has a footprint of
2 700 kilometres of fibre since its formation over three years ago.
In this question and answer with Standardbusiness (SB), Liquid managing director Wellington Makamure (WM) speaks about the company’s expansion plans and his views on infrastructure sharing.
SB: For how long has Liquid Telecom been in operation?
WM: We started in 2010 so it’s [been] more than three years.
SB: You have invested over US$80 million so far. How have you managed to raise the money?
WM: Partly it was through funding and vendor financing as well.
SB: Have you managed to recover the money you have invested so far?
WM: When you look into that kind of investment, it’s a long- term recovery. One has to have a sustainable business case. You don’t recover that money in three years. You recover that money maybe in 20 years.
SB: You already have operations in 11 countries; what are your expansion plans?
WM: The true vision that we have got is to connect Africa to Africa. Can you imagine if you want to call Cote d’Ivoire today, how is your call routed? Possibly from here it’s routed to London because we are a former English colony. From London, it’s routed to Paris and then goes to Cote d’Ivoire. What is the cost? All we are trying to do is to have that vision of Cape to Cairo, Africa to Africa and the cost of connecting directly from Zimbabwe to Cote d’Ivoire lowered.
SB: You have said that you will compete on the price but then there have been some arguments that the ministry should have a policy whereby you share the infrastructure. Are you comfortable in the event that the ministry says so?
WM: I would be very comfortable when the Ministry of Information also says we want one newspaper. Do you think it works? Why do we have five dailies? Why should you constrain one industry yet in your industry you have 10 newspapers? You have got different business cases but you are also covering the market. What happens if we are the only company with an infrastructure and it broke down, that brings Zimbabwe to its knees. You need multiple connectors, players so that if one fails Zimbabwe will not be brought down to its knees.
SB: What attracted you to support government during the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly which happens next month?
WM: Proudly Zimbabwean! This is a showcase for Zimbabwe. Every Zimbabwean would want to do something for the development of our country.
SB: What are the benefits to be derived from that?
WM: If we help the government to promote tourism, it means more tourists are coming. The economy develops. When tourists come into Victoria Falls, Harare or into Nyanga, they need communication. They will be using our facilities, our services. So we will grow with the economy. We are doing it to help government but also we are helping ourselves because tourists will come, business will boom and when business and tourists [arrivals] boom, our services are utilised at a higher level.
SB: What is your relationship with Econet?
WM: We are sister companies.
SB: How many metres or kilometres of fibre are you laying per day?
WM: We are doing between
2 400 and 2 600 metres per day. On a good day we do 4 500 metres. If you see the number of people I employ, that’s another service to the economy.
SB: Where do you see the future of telecoms?
WM: Telecommunications is a way of life. We don’t shout anymore to say let’s go for a drink. The future of telecommunications is the future of life.
SB: Where were you working before joining Liquid?
WM: I have worked for several telecommunications companies.
SB: Who was your last employer before joining Liquid?
WM: Before I joined Liquid, I was managing director for TelOne.
SB: What attracted you to Liquid?
WM: My term of office expired and so we had an amicable parting [of ways]. Liquid provided opportunities for further growth which I identified with.
SB: What is your budget for expansion?
WM: In terms of budget, this is a growing, organic growth. You keep on turning and rolling it.