Get the tricks straight from the horse’s mouth

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Adil Youssefi, Liquid Telecom Kenya CEO

BY VICTOR ADAR

Adil Youssefi joined Liquid Telecom Kenya as CEO in April last year. Prior to this, he worked as CEO Airtel Kenya where he garnered fundamental lessons and experiences from his day-to-day involvement in the ISP world. He outlines the finer things with the Internet world in general.

Please give us a brief background of your work…

I have learned to put first the expectations of the company’s stakeholders starting with our staff, customers, investors, and the community. By understanding what these stakeholders want from us, we are able to deliver in line with our company strategies.

What does it mean to be an ISP reseller?

Anyone can be a reseller. A reseller must comply with the laws governing the industry; the company must be registered by the relevant authority, comply with the statutory bodies such as Kenya Revenue Authority, have its Communication Authority of Kenya licenses, and the other requirements businesses are subjected to as a matter of law.

For Liquid Telecom Kenya, the key to selecting and registering resellers is their ability to reach out to a geographical location that we are not in or add services that complement our products and services. Once all these are in place, we at Liquid Telecom Kenya will be able to provide reseller services as soon as possible.

What advice would you give others especially the youth who have keen interest and passion in things Internet?

The Internet is the biggest ‘library’ ever built in the world. It offers users an opportunity to share and/or access knowledge on how to create successful businesses and, most importantly, links to institutions offering start-up funding and/or business incubation centres.

The Internet also gives the youth access to a variety of online jobs, which can be a source of income. Simply put, the Internet has everything you want. Youth can now use technology and the Internet to solve both social and commercial problems.

In Africa, the Internet has powered the rise in technology hubs across and Kenya, which has the third highest number of tech centres and incubation hubs in Africa, at 27, after South Africa and Egypt, now known as the ‘Silicon Savannah’. Youth should take advantage of these hubs to incubate their ideas and develop them to profitable ventures.

Do you have a message for your partners, customers and others keenly involved in the highly technical ISP world?

I wish to thank our esteemed customers for their trust and their business and I wish to assure them of our commitment to sparing no efforts to delight them.

I wish to tell our partners, and everyone else who is keen on ISP world that we have our strategies defined to meet all needs for individuals, institutions and SMEs. Already, Kenya’s connection speeds beat several big economies such as France, the United States, and South Korea at an average of 13.7 megabits per second. 

This means that we are now at a position to offer/receive faster, reliable and affordable Internet services that in turn stimulate our country’s economic growth.

Despite the challenge of connecting rural Kenya due to costs of network infrastructure and lack of electricity, we at Liquid Telecom are working on further extending our fibre network and other network upgrades to take connectivity to the most remote areas of the county. Also, we have adopted solar power for our network facilities that are off the grid in addition to VSAT technology for customers far from our fibre network.

The future of Internet connectivity in the country is availability (in every town and village), affordability and the ability to bundle with other services such as access to cloud services. Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) is also fast growing thus presenting opportunities for tech savvy youths to learn, develop and run future technologies that will help solve common problems in our communities.

How ISP could be speeded and how could it be used to positively impact society?

Internet Service Providers need to partner with stakeholders and government to bring Internet to marginalised areas for social and financial inclusion, e-learning, research and knowledge sharing and business opportunities.

Please expound on the huge potential for ISP in Kenya and East Africa…what impedes the growth of the sector?

The young population in the region is IT savvy and the demand for fast and reliable Internet is increasing by the day. The use of the Smartphone and web penetration in East Africa is soaring and this provides a huge potential market for us. Companies are also looking for solutions for their Internet needs as well as data storage and security.

To address these needs, we built a Tier III certified data centre, the East Africa Data Centre (EADC), which offers the perfect hosting location for both African and international companies who need to protect their business critical applications and data. This centre holds a great potential for Kenya and neighbouring countries.

Apart from being keen to enter into worthwhile partnerships such as with Microsoft – to provide our customers with Microsoft Azure cloud services, KETRACO – to run and extend our fibre reach, we have deployed over 5,000km of fiber in Kenya and 50,000km in the region. We have properly understood the market dynamics and we have in place strategies to bring new services and solutions to meet customers’ needs in the region.

Is enough being done to raise awareness on the benefits of connectivity in the country?

Yes. As a leading Internet provider, we have made great efforts by extending our fibre cable reach, launched hi-speed rural satellite, partnered with the private sector to deliver low-cost Internet and developed rural microwave. These advancements and upgrades are informed by the increasing demand for Internet connectivity across Kenya from banks, learning institutions, enterprises and homes usage. 

Low speed and downtime for the Internet are some vexing problems in ISP services. Do you think enough is being done?

Downtime affects the productive hours for businesses during the day thus affecting exchange of communication both within and without the organisation.

With this understanding, Liquid Telecom Kenya has invested heavily in improving our service delivery. For instance, our four-point-switch system has solved the downtime that previously affected our customers. The four-point switch makes it easier for the Internet to be delivered to our clients even when there is a breakdown in any of the lines.

Tell us how money is made based on the recent ISP endeavours undertaken and attained at Liquid Telecom?

In 2017, we were awarded a tender by Communication Authority to connect 321 schools in 14 counties.

We also continuously upgrade our network to support new products and services such as Liquid Telecom’s new CloudConnect for Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute service, which enables customers to create private, predictable, high performance, SLA-based connections between Azure data centres and infrastructure on their premises or in a colocation environment.

This creates an enabling environment for the youth and anyone else with business in countries we operate into leverage on the vast services we offer to help them grow their ideas and business within their countries as well as an opportunity to expand regionally.

We are also supporting a start-up incubation hub called Nairobi Garage that hosts a 300 co-working space with high-speed retail Internet solution designed for smaller businesses and homes and access to cloud platform from which they can develop solutions and applications suitable for their type of businesses.

What is your final word?

Kenya is on the right track toward Internet inclusion for all, urban to rural areas and from high-income to low-income individuals. We are heading to a time when Internet will be more affordable and accessible to the vast majority of Kenyans at high and stable speeds. The uptake of the Internet will continue. We have already seen its impact especially in e-commerce, education, banking, e-government services just to mention a few.