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‘Nigeria’s hardware market largely untapped’



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Mrs Ify Jennifer Afe is the Nigeria Managing Director, HP Inc. She spoke with ICT journalists recently, and sheds light on germane industry issues, ranging from low PC penetration in Nigeria, counterfeiting, untapped market potential in the country among others. ADEDEJI ADEYEMI  FAKOREDE was there. Excerpts.

WHAT is your assessment of computer/software market in Nigeria where HP is a major player?
In the Information Technology (IT) market, we have a lot of untapped potentials here in Nigeria. The PC penetration in this market is still under 11 per cent, so we have a long way to go. Now, HP is quite strong in this market and we haven’t even started the brand yet. We have both long and short-term strategies and we intend to remain in this market as long as possible. I think we are the oldest so far, HP has been in this market much longer than a lot of companies we have today and that shows our power and intent to remain in this market and improve the economy.

Can you shed light on the opportunities and challenges HP and others are having in the PC market?
There are lots of untapped opportunities within our education sector. I think education is very key because that is the only medium for us to improve the lives of the youths. We divided the youths into various segments. For instance, some of them are already exposed to computer to some degree, while others have little or no exposure at all. So, I will say that education is a very key area for us and other OEMs to key into and drive adoption of PC in the country.

How would you compare Nigeria’s market with others on the Continent?
Nigeria is a very strong market to Africa. I think one of the key things we have in this country is that we have a lot of strength pace and starters in the country. We have a lot of people that are exposed and open to technology. We have the population working for us, we have the minds of the people working for us, and so, Nigeria is a force to reckon with in Africa and in the world. The only thing we have to improve on is how to get this message to every household and every individual about the importance of the computer, which is what we are working on.
In Nigeria, the potential is huge, massive, untapped, and we haven’t even harnessed half of it and we have quite a while to keep improving on it.

Why are the potentials untapped in Nigeria?
I think it is a bit of everything. First of all, awareness is very important, the education of the people is important. We have seen a lot of product today in our presentation but how many of you are aware of them? In the same way we are moving on to the population at large. How many people are aware that there are software solutions to solve their problems? May be they know the problem, but they don’t know where and how to get the solution. The first key thing is that a lot of Nigerians are not fully abreast of the full technology lined up that they can use. That is the first area we need to tackle. We need to create awareness that is why we attribute a lot of time and effort to spend on marketing because we need to get that message out there. When you talk about being naïve, it is not a case of having a semblance of knowledge and not wanting to go into it but we are talking of complete absence of knowledge here and that is why we need to get this message to them.
In Nigeria, I think people need to talk to the government to make sure that they have the right level of policies in place in schools in the city establishment, the right level of standard of products and make sure that they are addressing the need of the users.

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What does HP Life+Unido partnership aim to achieve with the programme?
The aim of the programme is to capture individuals, that is, the youth that are in that confinement or that are in the needs market where they are not able to use the right product.
Perhaps, they equally don’t even know about it, so, we want to make sure that these people are aware of it and that they can use it. I met a couple of people, some of them related to me when I took a trip recently and some of these people have sound business ideas. Some people tell you that they want to have establishment but they don’t know how but they believe they can achieve it. Now, it is our job to tell them how and show them what they can use and that is what we are trying to do with HP Life programme. We want to capture these people and a lot of them have gone out of schools, out of age classification to start up SMEs but they don’t see how they can move their business from one level to the other and they are part of our audience in this programme and that is really what we are set after.

is going through tough economic challenges, including access to foreign exchange, how is this affecting your operations?
With the economic situation at the present, we do know that it affected many businesses as well not just HP. One thing is that in every situation, we try to look for the best solution out of it. We always make sure that the solution is in line with what the government requires from us and I think that is even more ideal that we don’t go against the set guidelines we have. In trying to work our way out of this economic situation, we have been able to do things a bit differently. We have been very understanding as to the situation and able to look for ways not to hamper the business and we are still working our way out of it not to say that this will cause any long-term effect. It is just that as the situation comes, we will adapt with it.

How has HP been able to manage the fierce competition in the Nigerian market?
Competition is very key because it is the backbone of every company. You have to work in such a way that all the eyes around you are satisfied with what you are doing. We have always had competition up and down, greater or less each year and that is really the dynamics of the market.
Healthy competition is very good for the market, so we are not a company that shies away from the competition because competition will always be there no matter what. The important thing is to set yourself apart from the competition; you have to always remain in line with what consumers demands; You have to make sure that you do not disappoint the users or your clients; You need to ensure that you give them the most reliable and most secured products they can work with; If it is in your consumer space, you need to make sure that you give them right value for what they are going for.
The value point also cuts across enterprise still; you need to keep demonstrating what you are in business for. The moment you start getting sidetracked at different things, then there is a problem. You can see what happens today in the market, people drop out, people move forward in the race and that is what is constant in the market but for us at HP, our primary motive is value for our consumers and that is what we do to set ourselves apart.