AfricaLive: How have the challenges of the past year impacted you as a person and as a business leader?
Godwin Makyao: The pandemic has made me rethink a lot of things as a leader. The normal traditional way of forecasting profits and the economic trajectory of the country has gone out of the window. Many people observe leaders like me to see the next moves we will make to improve their fortunes.
It’s been a tough situation to go around because investors grew wary and customers stayed home. It has been much tougher for African hospitality because unlike in western countries, there has been no stimulus relief offered to us.
AfricaLive: Once travel restrictions ease up, what would be your message to international tourists who may still be reluctant to travel to Tanzania?
Godwin Makyao: Our country took a different approach when dealing with COVID compared to our neighbours. We did not have stringent lockdown measures imposed and though we have been following health safety protocols, the lack of restrictions has seen us retain some tourist activity.
We still have open hotels with some activity going on. The thing here is to keep on adjusting your offerings to suit the kind of activity you are entertaining in your establishment. We also have to stress the importance of visitors following all WHO protocols.
The last two years have seen our national parks improve tremendously. COVID gave our government some space to improve hospitality-related infrastructure as well. We have upgraded operations and made things digital so that visitors no longer have to deal with paperwork and queues.
Our airports have also been invested in so visitors should find it more pleasant to fly into our country and check into their hotels. Things have improved not only on the mainland but also on the island of Zanzibar in terms of hospitality infrastructure and attractions.
AfricaLive: What is your message to international investors who maybe have an eye on Tanzania and whom would you like to partner with to move your operations forward?
Godwin Makyao: I would say this is the time to come to Tanzania without hesitation. We have new presidents now both in the mainland and in Zanzibar. The common focus is on tourism and how the industry can be enhanced.
The president of Zanzibar has drawn out a plan that will see Zanzibar up there with the likes of Mauritius and Seychelles as a tourist attraction. The potential is there and we are positioning ourselves to support national ambitions like that.
Incoming investors would do well to have pieces of property in the Serengeti, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. There is an airline system that connects those three destinations that can be fully taken advantage of. Investors don’t have to limit themselves to property ownership though. Investing in small aircraft services, for example, for exploring the various sites would also be a great investment.
I would love to work with anyone that can help enhance my business. Currently, we are running our property in Manyara and we will soon be looking at putting up properties in the Serengeti. I want to expand into the island as well and the right investment partner would help accelerate this process.
During this COVID period, we acquired a license to bring animals closer to the property in Manyara. I have been thinking about bringing in safari vehicles as well. An investment partner can come in handy here so that we can combine resources and give guests the ultimate experience.
We have registered some safari cars under a package known as the Serengeti Exclusive Safari. This is for the high-end guests who don’t feel content with what’s available.
AfricaLive: In a previous interview you said that the telecommunications industry was not ready for a pandemic because it was assumed that data infrastructure would only be required in workplaces, schools and other vital institutions.
What are your objectives now in stepping up the development of telecommunications infrastructure in East Africa?
Godwin Makyao: Indeed, the telecom infrastructure we had back then was not sufficient. We have been looking at ways to enable operators to provide cheaper data and communication services. We plan to get to work on the power aspect to ensure stable power supply at all times.
We are working with a company from South Africa and another from Mexico on a model that will encourage network operators to penetrate more areas. Solar energy can be harnessed as well so that we don’t have to rely on the main’s grid. Solar can go a long way in reducing electricity costs.
Our government is supporting our efforts as well because they have a deep interest in rural areas getting reliable power and internet connectivity. We are currently doing well in our operations in D.R.C and Mozambique with plans to expand further into Ethiopia and Congo Brazzaville.
AfricaLive: How will your telecommunications model impact and bring value to local communities that you are trying to expand your services to?
Godwin Makyao: Our model is looking to address three main challenges. First, we are trying to alleviate the cost barrier. We want network operators to move from CAPEX to OPEX in terms of their expenditure so that they don’t have to think about making huge capital outlays.
The second challenge we intend to address is scalability. If successful, our model will not only benefit internet mast sites but also nearby hospitals, schools and other social places in need of the internet to run.
We will also address unemployment because we want locals to run our internet and power masts. I would encourage investors to do their due diligence before coming in so that they can support our activities from a place of knowledge.
AfricaLive: What is your message to investors regarding East African telecommunications? Are there opportunities to partner with Maktech to develop sustainable & profitable businesses?
Godwin Makyao: As I said earlier, there are huge opportunities with regards to energy. Going into it deeper, opportunities are there when it comes to power and internet towers. Building cheaper towers can be a gold mine in a country that has big ambitions for the near future.
Investing in infrastructures like fibre optics and 5G will surely pay off in a Tanzania that has a growing population and a rising demand for data.
The building of data centres is another worthwhile investment. At the moment, most of the data centres are in the west and Asia. If we build some data centres here, we can start to have some control and better access to our data.
AfricaLive: In a best-case scenario, how would the telecommunications sector have changed Tanzania in ten years?
Godwin Makyao: We are always looking ahead at Maktech and it’s great that our country has a long term outlook when it comes to the telecommunications sector. This industry can enhance every other industry that we have in existence.
If we get it right, we can positively impact the agriculture industry for instance. Farmers can communicate to sellers more easily and they can even seek advice about their crops electronically. All this will hinge on our ability to provide cheap data in rural areas.
Our generation may not enjoy all the fruits of our efforts, but our children and grandchildren will get to enjoy these things and live in a far more sophisticated society.