Shimon Dick is the Vice President and General Manager, Motorola Solutions, Africa, an oil servicing company. In this interview with STANLEY OPARA, he spoke on the insecurity of critical assets in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector and public safety, among others
As a provider of critical communications services for important sectors like oil and gas, public, and so on. What is your relationship with International Oil Companies operating in Nigeria in terms of partnerships?
Many of the oil companies in Nigeria are our long-time clients. Many of them are looking into new systems that will drive their operations; and as such we are partnering with companies like Chevron, Shell, Nigeria LNG, and so on. All of them have the awareness, the right people that will look into the market and pick the right wireless communication. I think all the oil and gas companies in Nigeria are having the awareness of the right communication systems. From our point of view, we believe that the companies are knowledgeable enough to make the right decisions for themselves in the process of expanding their communications system. They know what they need, and I think they are making the right choices.
Cases of oil theft, vandalism and the like have continued to mar the growth of the oil and gas sector. What model do you think Nigeria can adopt to check this menace technologically?
I think that many of them are aware of the necessity of wireless communication and how important it is to get the new and latest technologies. We are talking to all of them about this. But for those that have installed the right technologies to protect their assets, there is the need for a healthy maintenance culture.
The reliability of these technologies, over the years, had been subjected to some sort of questioning owing to flops experienced in most cases. What can you say about our maintenance and servicing culture as far as these technologies are concerned?
These, I must say, are better described as solutions because they are meant to solve problems. It shouldn’t be a case of selling a technology and walking away. The solutions must indeed solve the problem(s) intended. Part of the solution is maintaining and servicing. For Nigeria, I have always said that the country needs to not only buy technologies, but must, as a part of the solution, sign a service contract, or what is called managed services. We must ensure that the systems are not only supplied with the right technologies, but are also made to continue to work.
There are a lot of electricity problems all over Africa, for instance. Nigeria, of course, has a special case. If you have service people on the ground, they will immediately monitor when a site collapses in a given location, and go to fix the problem before the situation aggravates. This can only be achieved using critical communications network. If you don’t have somebody responsible for it, then you have an issue.
In addressing the rising insecurity challenges in the oil and gas sector and the country as a whole, technologies must cover the entire country. It mustn’t be focused just in the capital or few selected locations. Nationwide perspective is very essential here.
In Africa, what portion of your business is skewed to the oil and gas sector?
Public safety is very key to us as a company. That is primary. Specifically for Nigeria and other African countries, the oil and gas sector is very important. In fact, Natural resources in general! There are six or seven verticals that are key to us in all. All of them should be linked together for overall safety.
The African market is very important to us because we can do much more because in Europe, America, and the likes, the markets are saturated. There are still a lot of areas to be served in Africa, and the potential is there. Africa right now, contributes less than three per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. We believe the market in Africa will grow rapidly.
Overall, what has been your experience in Africa?
Africa is an exciting continent for us because we believe it is going to act as the next geographical expansion for us going forward. We’ve been operating in Africa for 40 to 50 years because we started in the 1960s. The culture in Africa and the way business is being done have changed a lot in the past few years mainly because some super powers are more interested in Africa probably because of the natural resources in it, among others.
As Motorola, we believe Africa needs some solutions, hence, our expansive drive in the region. We are looking at having more people in Africa, especially in key countries. We are growing our presence in Africa through partners, distributors, as well as our direct people, and we see the opportunity and face the challenge of competition.
You’ve been in Africa for a long time. Looking at the continent and its numerous challenges, what roles have you played in making it a better place to live in?
I think technology is not enough! There is the need for the provision of total solution. Solution is not selling a solution and walk away. You need to follow the solution, you need to service, and you need to maintain. If you ask me, as a solution provider, what I have seen missing in Africa is the awareness of the people not only to buy and deploy a project, but to later on, service it and maintain it. That definitely, is the main challenge we are currently facing. There is the need for African countries to adopt servicing and maintenance culture, as is done in advanced countries.
I can say, this is probably one of the challenges seen in the African market; but going forward, that is one of the main focus we have to sustain – the customers’ awareness of maintenance and service.
Motorola is known for its public safety solution, Tetra. What is the adoption rate like in Africa given the high level of insecurity in critical sectors like the oil and gas, among others?
At this stage, when you talk about technology for public safety and government in general, there are two standards all over the world. One of which is the American standard (called Astro), and the other is the European/Asian standard, which is Tetra. At this stage and going forward in the near future, only one of the two standards would serve the best to customers in terms of public safety. The Nigerian Police, for instance, has deployed one of these solutions.