Introducing Raha CEO Aashiq Shariff
In December, Liquid Telecom received regulatory approval for its acquisition of Tanzania’s leading ISP, Raha. To find out more about the company’s innovative thinking and the exciting opportunities emerging in the Tanzania market, we caught up with Raha CEO Aashiq Shariff.
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Raha in Tanzania?
Aashiq: Raha was the first privately owned company to introduce the country to the World Wide Web (as it was more commonly known back then).
When we began in 1996, Tanzanians had never heard of the internet or email. Raha spent years and a great deal of resources to educate and familiarise the people of Tanzania about the internet. Raha is synonymous in Tanzania with the internet. Raha has always spearheaded the evolution of connectivity across the country. We were the first company to offer dial-up access, low cost VSAT services, fixed wireless, cable-based internet, WiMAX and finally fibre.
Raha's innovation has also moved beyond connectivity solutions. We introduced turnkey cybercafe solutions, free public Wi-Fi, web development, managed services and much more.
What are some of the company’s highlights in recent years?
Aashiq: Some of the company achievements that I am most proud of include building a super-brand in East Africa, which was recognised in 2015, when we collected the prestigious Brand of the Year Award (Africa) at the Social Media Awards Africa (SMAA).
We have positioned Raha as the preferred connectivity solutions provider for enterprises in Tanzania, which we serve through a metro fibre optic network that stretches over 400km.
We also introduced over 150 free Wi-fi hotspots across all major cities in Tanzania. To date we have over 150,000 unique users enjoying Raha’s free WiFi service.
How is high-speed broadband transforming the way businesses operate across Tanzania?
Aashiq: High-speed broadband connectivity has enabled businesses in Tanzania to improve their communications and online experience. It has also helped reduce costs through faster, better and cheaper mediums of market intelligence, as well as improve skill sets and expand business potential by removing geographical limitations.
All this gives rise to greater economic growth and many social benefits, helping to support initiatives in e-health, education and governance.
What is driving demand for the rollout of new connectivity across Tanzania?
Aashiq: The business world is turning increasingly to cloud solutions, driving fresh demand for new connectivity.
Data and information is no longer just downloaded anymore – an equal amount is uploaded.
The transfer of data to and fro needs to happen fast, placing more importance on high-speed and reliable connectivity. The more businesses and consumers leverage the cloud for data, entertainment and communications, the more this trend will accelerate.
How do you hope the acquisition of Raha by Liquid Telecom will benefit customers?
Aashiq: Raha believes that with Liquid Telecom we can expand beyond the key cities of Tanzania. We can explore ways to increase connectivity within Tanzania, as well as outside its borders to the rest of the region.
With Liquid Telecom's support, we can achieve our vision of a more connected Tanzania through faster network rollouts. We will also benefit from the group’s skills and expertise.
What are some of the new opportunities you see in Tanzania moving forward in 2017?
Aashiq: Our strength lies in the enterprise business, where we expect to experience more growth in 2017.
Other priorities for 2017 include the rollout of more Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) and regional connectivity. We also hope to leverage our extensive network to grow our wholesale and voice businesses.
Ultimately, we want to continue our vision of a more connected Tanzania and a more connected Africa.