Hon. Supa Maniwanzira, Minister of ICT
A few months ago, Twenty Third Century Systems, a local enterprise software company which is the country’s distributor of SAP solutions with a strong footprint across Africa, was acquired by a South African entity, EOH.
Twenty Third Century Systems is one of the leading enterprise companies locally and through the deployment of SAP Solutions, has serviced private and public sector entities. The deal, which transferred between 49% and 80% of Twenty Third Century Systems to EOH ownership, has now come under scrutiny from the Ministry of ICT.
According to a report in the Herald, the Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira, the country was being exposed by giving a foreign company access to sensitive economic data.
Other than the risk of economic espionage, the Minister pointed out that there was a need to have multiple suppliers of enterprise solutions to guard against the risk of one entity and its pricing. Twenty Third century has deployed $35 million worth of ICT solutions to government departments.
Is there merit to the Minister’s argument? Well, yes, when you consider the fact that Twenty-Third Century’s new ownership structure could potentially be violating local indigenisation laws. Any negotiation from Twenty-Third Century should have considered this significant factor. This was even more pertinent considering the extent to which the company has its hands in government related projects.
However, there is likely going to be a response from the company that regarding espionage and data security, SAP Solutions are robust, secure, free from external interference and probes etc. It will be the usual pitch that any sound enterprise company with a solid solution will deliver.
The real objection from the government is less about the security of the solution, but who owns the company delivering the solutions, and how much of the government’s business is being delivered by them.
The Government is working on an extensive rollout of e-governance solutions and the fact that this business is being shored up largely by one company that has some indigenisation violation hanging over it must have raised eyebrows.
So if not Twenty-Third Solutions, which other indigenous company, with a strong track record in rolling out e-governance solutions and the right blend of experience and aptitude will be tapped for this? The Minister pointed out that the Government is working on a strategy that will solve the problem of relying on one supplier (which is a great idea, it should have been effected a while ago actually),
Companies like e-Solutions and Afrosoft Holdings easily come to mind because of the customized solutions they have already delivered for government departments. Or maybe it’s another provider altogether.