JOHANNESBURG - Information technology guru Garth Madella is pinning his hopes on the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to take his business across Africa.
He guardedly reveals that he’s already done business for a bank in Swaziland and for telecommunications company Airtel in Niger. Madella wants to increase his company footprint across the South African borders but says he will taken it one step at a time.
“If you are going to work in Africa you need to have your head above your shoulders to navigate the terrain,” says Madella, co-founder and chief technology officer of technology firm Alteram Solutions.
“The Africa free trade zone will definitely be a positive step in getting us into Africa.”
A number of African countries signed the AfCFTA and committed themselves to eliminating cross-border tariffs and making border posts more efficient, during the African Union Extraordinary Summit held in Rwanda's capital Kigali recently.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said his government needed more time to consult relevant stakeholders about the AfCFTA before signing it, but however signed the declaration on the establishment of the free trade treaty.
Madella says he has been in the information communication technology (ICT) sector since the 1980s, working for mining Anglo American and subsequently BP South Africa in the mainframe arena.
“I was involved in ICT way before it was popular. I was a software programmer in the mainframe operating system space, working for Anglo American. We wrote software programmes and did a lot of fault finding,” says Madella.
“This was actually at a time when being a software programmer was regarded as the most stressful job around.”
He says working for these two companies gave him a good foundation and core understanding of the ever revolving sector, and made him to start his own business.
Alteram Solutions was established in 2013 and its services, among others, include customer relationship management solutions; network operations; and big data solutions which is branched into business intelligence and business analytics.
Their clients include the SA Revenue Service, City of Tshwane, DHL, SA Maritime Safety Authority, pharmaceutical company Pfizer, and the Departments of Transport; Trade and Industry; Science and Technology; and Water and Sanitation.
“We are also local partners to a German company called Muhlbauer, they provide technology to the Department of Transport. We support them in 406 driving licence testing centres across the country by providing them with desktop support,” says Madella. He says it’s not easy starting a business. “Firstly, you have to have the right focus, you need to focus on what you want to do. And you have to start somewhere, a lot of people procrastinate, they know they want to do something but they always put it off.”
The entrepreneur says it’s also important to have business partners that compliment one’s skill set. “Partnering allows you the opportunity to scale your business.”
When asked about the meaning of his company name - Alteram Solutions - Madella says: “It comes from the latin phrase audi alteram partem, which means listen to the other party.”
“We always listen to the other party. To me, that is one of our core values. We listen to our clients and come up with solutions to their problems.”
- BUSINESS REPORT