Escopil: Rogério Samo Gudo Talks About ICT and Industrial Services in Mozambique

Rogério Samo Gudo, President of Escopil Internacional and Chairman of MCNet, gives an overview of the ICT sector in Mozambique. He also mentions some important projects and shares his vision for the coming years.

Interview with Rogério Samo Gudo, President of Escopil Internacional and Chairman of MCNet (Mozambique Community Network)

Rogério Samo Gudo, President of Escopil and MCNet

What is your assessment of the ICT sector in Mozambique?

Well, I think that the ICT sector is growing and becoming more mature. It is attracting big players and companies that are operating in other markets and that see Mozambique as a market where they can find their interests. I would say that it is a difficult task because we have a shortage in terms of skills. It is really a major challenge because both our service providers and the clients that receive sales from us are choosing exactly the same resources. So, it is tough, and of course we know that we should be proactive, and it is for this reason that Escopil is also playing a very strategic role. We have invested in a new division that involves specialised training and development for young start-ups, especially for individuals just coming out of school. So we are attracting them to this sector, but firstly preparing them through a specific module that we have established.

Regarding the other side of things, obviously we have been interacting with clients and the government in order to identify the challenges, above all those of the future. We know that the biggest challenge that governments face is to provide services to people, so we are trying to innovate and anticipate their need by joining forces with partners. These are companies that also come from all corners of the world and which have vast experience in this type of environment, especially in the emerging markets.

In 2008, we engaged in one of our first projects with the government, which was to provide an identification system, a drug license and a motor vehicle system. The scheme was very successful and is acknowledged in the region as one of the best drug licenses to date.

In 2007 and 2008, we also collaborated with a South African company to design a system that helped the government move from a manual system of voter registration to a digital system. It was a real challenge, because in order to access the voters you have to access the whole country, all its locations. So the infrastructure is definitely a major issue in the emerging markets and Mozambique is also facing some tough tests. This is why we have to come up with solutions that can also take advantage of renewable energies. We use solar panels to power those systems, so the challenge is particularly difficult. We have to develop a system that will respond to the only chain, right from the source of energy all the way through to the integration of the whole data right across the country. But there is no doubting that it was a positive experience, and still today the government is using this procedure for other projects.

As a company, we feel that growth is important, especially sustainable growth. We are looking 20 to 30 years ahead in terms of our investment, so obviously in order to achieve success across such timelines it is necessary to explore different kinds of partnerships for funding and for technology.

The other critical project was to help the government with its external tax reform. So we have partnered with AGS, one of the leading global companies, to design a solution to help the government to solve one of its critical problems. Mozambique is a country that imports the majority of its goods, which means that there is a substantial amount of income to the government that ought to derive from external taxes. So we accepted the challenge and we have designed a system called the Single Electronic Window (SeW), a concept borrowed from Singapore. Today, it is a product of which the government is very proud, and it is using this platform to leverage for other areas that still need reform, especially in terms of internal tax. So the government is currently looking at how it can leverage on this to also cover another strategic area. These are our experiences within the ICT industry, and we are prepared above all to engage ourselves with new projects.

Given that you are talking about Escopil Internacional, could you describe exactly what the company does?

Escopil is made up of 2 divisions: ICT and industrial services, the latter of which is focused on the mechanical and the electrical side of things. We are working with big projects, a strategy we adopted because we wanted to fill a gap that was a big challenge for many large investors in Mozambique. For example, when Mozal started in 2000, the big problem was that whilst they had taken the decision to implement the project, they were unsure of who was going to maintain it in the future. They were also concerned about whether it was still feasible to rely on exports to sustain the plan. That’s why we devised a project to provide different services or different disciplines within the industrial services. Next came another project which involved replicating the model that we were using with Mozal. So, looking ahead to the future, obviously my big challenge is to bring those two divisions into one because, all over the world, efficiency in terms of production processes is related to ICT (data and data management). So I would say that in my life I have proven that I have the ability to improve the efficiency of projects through ICT technology.

On the other hand I have worked with infrastructure, which is what it ultimately requires in order to be productive. Therefore, if you are looking to be really efficient, both together make for a very good combination, because if you can reduce or maintain a process where you can monitor through the ICT process, then you will be gaining by having an integrated product – or service – which will be much more efficient and much more competitive in the market. So, yes, looking ten to twenty years down the line, I am seeing a company that is a leader in terms of integrated industrial services.

Given what is happening in the world in terms of technology development, it is difficult now to separate ICT measures from the production process. Today, one hears a lot about the Internet of Things, a concept that aims to provide greater efficiency and increased interactions with the process. So whatever process you have, obviously you need to monitor it, and this is why the Internet of Things gives you a solution. In light of this, we are looking for something that is more integrated, a different industry, but which is more than just one unit.

On an international level, is your strategy to approach other governments, with a similar emphasis on what you are doing here abroad, or are you also pursuing the private sector overseas?

The experience that we have gained in Mozambique is obviously valid for any market, especially for the emerging markets. Yes, we have been discussing with partners, with other governments, with a view to exploring the same system that we are developing here in Mozambique. What is more, we are discussing other projects within the public sector in order to take advantage of the experience that we have learned from this market in Mozambique.

Are you interested in investing, in finding and embarking on projects with international companies and investors, or more globally as a company?

Obviously we are open to it. As a company, we feel that growth is important, especially sustainable growth. We are looking 20 to 30 years ahead in terms of our investment, so obviously in order to achieve success across such timelines it is necessary to explore different kinds of partnerships for funding and for technology. So yes, we are researching different partnerships with a view to sustaining our growth.

What is your vision for the company if everything goes perfectly and if the economic situation continues to be positive? What would be your most optimistic target, and where would you like the company to be in the middle term?

Well, we have been holding discussions within the ICT sector, but we have also been talking with national services. So we have been working with all the big projects in Mozambique, and of course we have been trying to access and to stimulate the smaller projects as well. We provide services to the government – not as many as we would like, but we do understand that this area is more closely related to infrastructure, which is obviously still very small and needs a lot of work.

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