In Conversation: Wallen Mangere (Chairman, Tano Digital Solutions)

Earlier this month, pan-African technology company Tano Digital Solutions announced that it was relocating its headquarters to Gaborone after acquiring Altron businesses in Botswana, and Mozambique, last year as part of its regional expansion plans.

BW TechZone talked to chairman Wallen Mangere to understand more about the company's operations in Botswana and its future ambitions.

Please tell us about Tano Digital Solutions

We are a systems integration company focusing on digital solutions, application development and management. We are based in six African countries: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya, and Malawi. 

We've got a dev team sitting in some of the African countries and our SAP practice domiciled out of Zimbabwe. We've got an Oracle practice that is domiciled out of Mozambique as well as a contact centre solution and cybersecurity solution team based out of Kenya. So, in total, we're a team north of 350 employees within the geographies mentioned and turning over revenues of close to R1 billion.

What was the rationale behind entering the Botswana market?

It really was a combination of factors. Number one is that our investment strategy around skills development has been warmly received and supported by the government of Botswana. So we want to partner with the government in terms of skills development, and employment creation via opening an SAP delivery centre out of Gaborone. In addition to that, we also have been quoted based on the privileges and the concessions that we've been given by the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) RBI in terms of encouraging foreign direct investment into Botswana. So I think the the steady economic climate and the predictability of the economy as well as the help that we're getting from the government to build and grow across SADC were major motivating factors.

What opportunities in the Botswana IT market will you be looking to exploit?

What we do know for a fact is that our presence in Botswana is going to be warmly receptive because currently there are no entities that are capacitated to deliver, maintain and support SAP customers in the country. That's one of our key focuses. And through our acquisition of Altron, we are offering financial services solutions. So we support and maintain 95% or higher of all ATMs in Botswana. So we'll continue to do that as part of our core business. We will also try to grow our document management solution in the country. So in summary we will be offering our ATM and financial services, document management and the introduction of SAP all of which aim to help us achieve our growth ambitions in the short term. And as we look into the long-term horizon, we're looking to introduce some of our other capabilities in other countries into Botswana.

In terms of your future ambitions in the Botswana market, please expound on those

We have acquired an entity that was in Botswana for more than 18 years so technically, we've been present in the market for a while but as a different brand. In terms of short and medium-term outlook, we've already started our recruitment drive to get to our ambition of recruiting, training and hiring about 100 citizens within the next 12 to 24 months. As earlier stated, we intend to establish an SAP delivery centre to support and capacitate SAP customers within Botswana.

What's your message to your potential clients in Botswana who are considering using your services?

What we have done in most of the countries that we operate in is that we believe more in partnering with the local communities, and not necessarily competing. So in Botswana, we already have a few IT entities that we've partnered with and have gone to market with because we really believe that in some of the institutions that we provide services in, it is better to have a local entity supporting you while we to bring them the skills and credentials that they may need to deliver to their customers. 

So our message to all our fellow IT companies in Botswana is that please reach out to us if you see any opportunities where we can collaborate and go to market together.

*Interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.

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