CAIRO: With approximately two million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country, and more popping up on the radar, increasing importance has been placed on the SME sector in Egypt and its role in job creation and export promotion. Unfortunately, not many SMEs are making it big because the government, in its efforts to ease the difficulties SMEs face, are going about it the wrong way, say experts, looking at the problem from the outside in.
Headed by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), the government has been focusing renewed efforts on developing the capacity of SMEs in terms of training and the simplification of procedures to make establishing a business easier, while overlooking the core of the problem: IT management and services and backup systems.
One of the major difficulties that continue to plague SMEs in the region is the right in-house resources necessary for these businesses to address the problems they face and capitalize on opportunities that are now being wasted due to a lack of an efficient network. Not having the proper infrastructure, companies need to know where and how to gain a quick grasp of approaches and potential solutions when confronted with technology issues, such as problems with systems, data, and voice communications.
“IT security is a must, says Havier El Haddad, field partner manager at Computer Agency (CA), an IT management software company. “SMBs (small medium businesses) will face spywork and antivirus problems if they do not have the proper software. It’s not a joke to lose your data. If you do, you lose business.
Realizing the potential for business in Egypt, where registered SMEs can be found by the truckload, CA, which set up its MENA region offices in 2004, is currently awaiting its operating license to set up house in the country.
“Egypt is extremely promising to us because IT is being directed as a means of exportation and economic growth, says Toni Prince, country manager of CA in Egypt, Libya and the Levant.
According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) African Economic Outlook 2004/2005 report, the Egyptian SME sector accounts for 75 percent of jobs, 80 percent of GDP and 99 percent of the non-agricultural private sector, but only 4 percent of exports.
“Currently, we are working with the public and private sector to capitalize on CA’s products to export IT software and get IT organizations involved in more outsourcing and management services in business, both locally and internationally, says Prince.
According to El Haddad, CA, which has been offering its services in Egypt through distributors and resellers, can provide Egyptian SMEs with streamlined solutions for all their IT management and security woes, akin to the government’s one-stop-shop plan.
“We offer end-to-end enterprise solutions to our customers, meaning we do everything – offering pre-sale support, virtual machine wear, a bid team (that responds to tenders), in addition to managing information and back-up data, as well as antivirus and spyware solutions, explains El Haddad.
“Companies can get our services and products from other providers. However, they do this by taking bits and pieces from every company, which leads to having to integrate all these products, says Prince. “With CA, you get one system that gives you everything you need and deals with all your problems; a system that talks to each of its components.
For SMEs that are cash-strapped, particularly those in poor countries such as Egypt, CA offers bundling products – a set of basic IT management and security products bundled into one kit for a reasonable price, according to El Haddad.
CA is also lending its services to the government through products such as e-trust forensics, which enables the government to know who did what. Currently, the company works with EgyptAir and the Egyptian Air Force, among other public enterprises.
Both El Haddad and Prince are quick to point out that threat management services are equally important to big corporations.
“Big companies need to meet global standards that can be met using specific solutions, says El Haddad.
For those who state that, unlike SMEs, big companies with hefty returns can afford to implement such services, according to Prince, SMESs, especially those with hopes of making it really big, cannot afford to do nothing about it.
“IT services and management is a central, imperative component to business. If you’re unable to get your services running, then your business isn’t running, and if your system doesn’t work, then your business doesn’t work, explains Prince.