AfricaLive: Please tell our readers about the identity of Analytics Engineering and the driving force behind you, setting it up all those years ago.
Mr. Ebow Sam-Mooney: I was driven by innovation. I started at Africa Online, which began operations in Kenya before coming to Ghana, at the start of the century when the internet was a new thing in most of Africa. My goal at the time was to innovate new products for a new market, and it was exciting. Africa Online gave me the opportunity and platform to take part in the latest technology at the time, and I served diligently with a lot of curiosity.
One of the first products we launched was the E-touch, which would go on to become very popular. We enjoyed successes at Africa Online that saw us get featured on CNN and other prominent publications while also replicating our services in Kenya, Cote D’Ivoire and other places. We were operating at a time when internet and mobile handset penetration in Ghana was very minimal. Out of a population of around seventeen million people at the time, only three-hundred thousand had access to the internet. Landlines and dial-ups were the norm, and we were determined to open the country up through mobile telephony and internet.
We did a quick research and found that the majority of people who did not have access to landlines got messages across by going to communication centres. The centres were like business bureaus where people made calls and also had photocopies and other things done. We swung into action by forming partnerships with these centres. We created links with about a hundred of them, bought them some computers, and trained the staff there. We had them open email addresses for clients as they came along, and instead of the old way of checking mailboxes, they would check emails for information at the centres. Our aim was to decentralise the way the internet was being distributed in Ghana and across the African continent.
The next big project I did with Africa Online was AFCON 2008, which was held here in Ghana. The tournament opened my eyes to the need for security systems because security was becoming huge at the time, and clients kept asking about that. The company I was working for could not pivot into that area so easily, so I started looking into the client needs myself. When i finally left the company, I looked into the area by starting my own company. At the time, the industry was so green because very few people had heard of POE technology. One of our first clients was a big embassy, and when we installed cameras for them, we realised that we couldn’t power them because we lacked a POE switch. The switch could not be found anywhere in Ghana, so we had to procure from South Africa. There was this notion among sellers that Ghanaians couldn’t afford IP Cameras at the time, which was wrong because people were already buying expensive mobile phones.
We took advantage of the fear and started offering IP camera solutions and quickly started to gain customers. The next move was integrations. We had to figure out how to integrate the cameras with other systems to provide great experiences for our clients. We got together with an integration partner in Milestone, known for being an open-source platform that allows you to integrate with the broadest range of systems in the world. We moved to cloud solutions and brought in another partner to help with data analytics. This is the basis of our company because we help clients analyse data and show them what they need to do to get predictive information that will help in decision making. At the moment, we are looking to get a partner on board to help us create a local cloud solution to help manage local video information. Such a solution would provide end to end services for our clients, meaning that we will be able to manage data from the camera to final data.
A cloud solution also cuts cost by 30 per cent because DVRs won’t be needed for installation. It also improves security because thieves normally target DVR boxes to try and get rid of any recordings that may have captured them in the act. They can’t save themselves from a cloud solution because the data is not available to steal. We are also focusing on solar energy because it is a major solution to the fluctuating power that we get from our hydro grid. When a client spends a lot of money procuring our systems, we must protect their power sources by providing clean and sustainable energy which you get from solar. We are in the process of building a smart campus which is a tertiary institution. We are providing them with an end to end solution, which is a data centre, access control, intruder alarm system and even audiovisual. The smart systems we are installing in the school are great, especially in this Covid era. Students will use their cards to access rooms in the smart campus, which will limit contact with potentially infected surfaces. There is also a biometric solution that takes the temperatures of those who try to access rooms. If the temperature of a person is higher than normal, medics will be alerted to examine the person. Our plan going forward is to set up regionally and find new markets that will consume our services.
AfricaLive: The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area will be going ahead in early 2021, hopefully acting as a catalyst for driving Intra-African trade. At AfricaLive we assist companies in communicating into multiple African markets. What are your ambitions, both in the short term and long term, when it comes to trading internationally?
Mr. Ebow Sam-Mooney: We are indeed looking at expanding as I mentioned earlier. Markets such as Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Cote D’Ivoire are huge attractions at the moment. We have also done consultancy for the Gambia, and Sierra Leone; but our immediate target is Nigeria.
AfricaLive: Within Ghana and West Africa, what do you consider to be the primary opportunities and threats facing your sector?
Mr. Ebow Sam-Mooney: The first challenge I will point to is the ability of a company to maintain internal financial stability. If you are an innovative company, you will go through periods of drought because your innovations will not pay all the time. You must, therefore, find a way to keep your business afloat when there is nothing in the pipeline.
The other threat is cheaper technology coming from rivals who want to undercut the market. Quality technology is not cheap, but because there is a lack of education. Clients end up looking at the price in their ignorance instead of value for money. To beat these cheap offerings, you must provide extra services that will woo clients. You must become the consultant, the service provider and the drawer of plans and opportunities. If you can make things that easy for clients, you will funnel them in. Another threat is legal matters; some clients will want to pass blame when they mess up things on their end. Legal counsel is, therefore, important to clearly outline where the liabilities lie in our relationships with customers. Lack of proper governance within the organisation is a huge threat as well. Most entrepreneurs shy away from this because the word governance sounds like restrictions to them. It is important to have a board that checks you as the CEO so that the firm can stay protected from your potential excesses.
AfricaLive: If you were to bring together the leadership of your country as well as other relevant stakeholders, what is the one issue you would raise about your industry?
Mr. Ebow Sam-Mooney: I would talk up the need for digitisation of processes. There is a need for the creation of a digital economy to help eradicate corruption, reduce unemployment, increase revenues and improve efficiency. It should not be a big leap to make because we have already digitised the ports and court systems. A digitised system would help the government function better because tax, ID, and registration systems will be improved. Having a robust digital ecosystem will also help us improve our traffic systems because it will reduce human interference and incidences of road carnage. I believe that the adoption of technology will reduce the gap between developing countries and those that are highly industrialised.