Telkom South Africa, Africa's biggest integrated communications company, is ready to invest $6.8 million to make Africa Online the leading Internet Service Provider on the whole continent. AFOL is currently the ISP with the largest footprint in sub-Saharan Africa, operating in eight countries, including Ghana.
Telkom South Africa acquired AFOL from African Lakes Corporation in February this year in line with its ambition of expanding its Pan-African operations. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, AFOL started operations in April 1996 as a fully fledged ISP.
With current staff strength of 300, AFOL offers dial up, lease line, VSAT and broadband-based services to retail and corporate customers. Its active affiliates employ a wide range of technologies to provide services to its numerous customers across Africa.
Speaking at a media briefing in Accra Friday, John Peter Joseph, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of AFOL, said the ISP"s corporate strategic plan include the expansion of its network infrastructure and product range as well as the development of new markets and new data services.
Mr Peter Joseph, who was on a brief working visit to Ghana since May 23, said: "We are actually pursuing the establishment of additional affiliates to increase our affiliate footprint across Africa to about 39 countries." When asked by this reporter to name the countries, he was evasive, saying the choice will stem from requests from customers "to concentrate on strategically important" countries.
During his visit, he had discussions with Major (Rtd) J R K Tandoh, the Acting Director General of the National Communications Authority. He also paid a courtesy call to Communications Minister Mike Oquaye at the ministry.
Mr Peter Joseph said AFOL is planning to extend its mobile wireless broadband infrastructure, known as InfiNet, in Accra and throughout Ghana. He said part of AFOL's strategy is to optimise its network capabilities so that customers can benefit from the vast experience of modern networks and technological advances.
AFOL began operating in the country in October, 1996. It now controls about 25 per cent of the premium corporate market, with services cutting across all the industry sectors. It has corporate wireless networks and points of presence in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale and Sunyani. The ISP launched "iburst" under InfiNet in Accra in August, 2006 - which is available in Accra and Tema. With 60 employees and innovative service offerings, AFOL is set to take the Information Communication Technologies industry in the country by storm.
"Africa Online will seek to continue to provide compelling value propositions to all customer segments across the ICT value chain. Our desire is to improve customer experience and satisfaction through improved service levels, expanded network infrastructure, establishment of additional affiliates and management capabilities," the former Marketing Executive of Telkom South Africa stated.
The CEO told staff in Ghana that existing employees would be pivotal in driving the company's strategies successfully. "We intend to keep our staff in the key markets because they have the knowledge and market insight necessary for long term growth and shareholder value."