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IBM:非洲通讯革命商机无限

Bruno Di Leo 2011年09月21日

IBM公司成长市场部门总经理称,人口规模世界第二的大陆正在快速城市化,这个进程意味着无可比拟的商业机遇。

    事实上,由肯尼亚运营商M-Pesa公司(M-Pesa)和南非的电子钱包(eWallet)领衔的移动通讯服务已经帮助当地解决了金融机构不足的问题。移动通讯运营商沃达丰(Vodaphone)报告称,2008年,在推出M-pesa服务仅仅18个月后就有400万人用上了基于手机的银行服务,几乎与该国拥有银行账户的人数相当。

    世界各大公司正纷纷涌向非洲捕捉电信市场的机遇。由尼日利亚金融机构和南非投资者组成的财团近期沿非洲西海岸完成了金额达2,500万美元的海底光缆铺设。联合国国际电信联盟(ITU)称,这一进展导致目前正在争夺带宽资源的互联网服务供应商竞相杀价。ITU预计,未来两年间,可用的带宽将会进一步增加。

    另一家对非洲的无线通讯发展前景深信不疑的公司是印度的Bharti Airtel电信公司(Bharti Airtel)。今年年初,这家公司花了90亿美元购买科威特移动通讯公司(Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co.)在非洲的大部分资产。Bharti公司增长迅猛,比印度的任何公司拥有的用户都多。它的成功反映了它对市场机遇的深刻理解,这种机遇是由那些极度贫困、需要依靠手机联络致富的客户带来的。Bharti公司之所以认为非洲市场富有吸引力是因为当地的手机渗透率仅为40%左右。

    尽管宽带接入是各地发展的长期目标,但也不可低估手机通讯的商业潜力,这一点同样很重要。加纳的渔民如今通过手机寻找最佳的批发商,他们能给捕获的鱼开出最好的价格,这样,渔民就不用再每天都跑到码头上打听。加纳Esoko是一个市场信息系统,它为多种农作物推出了商品价格指数,每天通过短信将指数发送给农户,帮助他们为自己的农产品定价。

    印度的经验表明,在语音通话昂贵且互联网连接稀缺的地区,企业家更愿意使用基于文本的短信服务。联合乡村网络有限公司(United Villages Networks Ltd.)是一家由麻省理工学院(MIT)的应届毕业生开办的公司。他们的初衷是在乡村里提供互联网服务。但该公司后来调整了商业模式,开始从乡村商店接受短信订单。现在,它已在印度数十个小城市建立了杂货仓库,每天为店主供货。以前,这些店主必须外出进货,才能囤满货架。

    当前席卷非洲的技术革命显示了一种创业精神,这种精神将刺激这片土地的经济发展。各界领袖都可以投身于建设智能、公共的基础设施来充分利用这种精神。非洲是人类通往未来的全新通道,它充满了活力。这些基础设施将帮助非洲人民推动经济进一步发展,并最终创造财富。

    Bruno Di Leo是IBM成长市场部门的总经理。这是一个位于上海的全球性组织。他主要负责推动IBM在亚太区,印度,拉美,中欧和东欧,中东及非洲等地的高速增长的经济体中的业务取得成功。

    译者:清远

    Indeed mobile services, led by Kenya's M-Pesa and South Africa's eWallet, have helped overcome their region's shortage of banking facilities. Vodaphone reported that in 2008, after just 18 months of offering M-pesa, four million people were using cell-phone based banking services, nearly equal to the number of people in the country with bank accounts.

    World businesses are starting to flock to Africa to fulfill the telecommunications opportunity. A consortium of Nigerian financial institutions and South African investors recently completed a $250 million underseas fiber cable along Africa's West coast. That is resulting in slashed prices by Internet service providers who now have competing sources of bandwidth, according to the UN's ITU. The ITU expects far more bandwidth to become available in the next two years.

    Another company that is showing its belief in the prospects for wireless in Africa is India's Bharti Airtel. Earlier this year Bharti spent $9 billion to buy most of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co.'s African assets. Bharti has grown explosively to handle more subscribers than any other company in India. Its success reflects a deep understanding of the opportunities presented by very poor customers whose economic fortunes are boosted by cellular connections. Bharti finds Africa attractive because the cellular penetration rate there is still only about 40%.

    While broadband access is the long term goal everywhere, it's important not to underestimate the business potential of cellular connections. Fishermen in Ghana use cell phones to find wholesalers who will give them the best prices for fish they have caught rather than returning to the same dock every day. Esoko Ghana, a market information system, has created a commodity index with prices for many different crops that it sends by daily text message to farmers to help them price their produce.

    The experience of India shows that in places where voice calls are expensive and Internet connections rare, entrepreneurs gravitate to text-based messaging. United Villages Networks Ltd., a company founded by recent MIT graduates started out to provide Internet service in villages, but it recast its business model to accept text-message orders from village stores. Now it has established grocery depots in dozens of small cities in India that ship supplies daily to storekeepers who used to have to travel in order to stock their shelves.

    The technological revolution that is sweeping Africa demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit that can spur the continent's economy. Leaders can leverage that spirit by committing to build a smart, public infrastructure that will promote further economic development and, ultimately, wealth creation for the people of this new and vibrant gateway to the future: Africa.

    Bruno Di Leo is General Manager of IBM Growth Markets, a global organization based in Shanghai. He is responsible for driving IBM's business success in high-growth economies across Asia Pacific, India, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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