The Business Year

Arif Iqbal Sheikh

TANZANIA - Economy

Big Business

Executive Director & Group CEO, Quality Group Limited

Bio

Arif Iqbal Sheikh is Executive Director & Group CEO of Quality Group Limited. He has over 30 years’ global exposure, including 17 years in diverse markets including the US, the UK, the UAE, India, and Africa. He is a recipient of numerous awards and recognitions and has authored two books that are on the curriculum of business schools. He is a visiting faculty to many international business schools across Asia, including the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM). He is also a recognized motivational speaker and has delivered many lectures at international forums, conferences, and seminars.

TBY talks to Arif Iqbal Sheikh, Executive Director & Group CEO of Quality Group Limited, on the business environment under the new government, efforts to industrialize the country, and his assessment of the PPP landscape.

How would you assess the new government and business environment since the election?

This is the first time one sees a statement by a president who walks the talk. He has already taken a stand against corruption and will continue with that. This drive to level the playing field will be a great boost. We have almost 100 companies in 28 countries and 30% of our revenue comes from Tanzania. As an overview, we have drones for border management and mining, and we have an e-health kiosk where patients can connect to doctors around the world. We have also purchased a newspaper and have e-education initiatives in place. In addition, we have a logistics company called Fasta-Fasta, an e-commerce company, ad agencies, social network apps, a supermarket, IT companies, and so on. We accomplished all this after President Magufuli came to power.

How do you assess the president’s vision of industrializing the country and how does your business fit into this wider picture?

We see clearly that all the new policies are directed toward self-reliance, as opposed to being dependent on imports or at the mercy of foreign aid. We therefore view that as an opportunity to move into the import substitution sector and are analyzing the sectors that have great enough demand to determine if we can serve that market with the present tools at our disposal and if the segment is profitable. We currently import almost 70% of dairy products from Kenya; hence, in 2015 we decided to enter into the dairy sector. There was also a sugar crisis and the government is willing to provide incentives to promote sugar production. As the biggest landowner in the country, with 14,000 acres, we invested in the sugar industry after spending months surveying plants in Brazil, Europe, and Africa for the best technical expertise. We are setting up two different plants and the idea is to not only provide supply for domestic consumption but to export as well. One plant is in Morogoro while the second is in Pemba, which has a port.

How does the Stone Town Village project fit into the tourism strategy of the country?

Today, the entire tourism sector is focused on Zanzibar and Arusha, which sees luxury and nature tourists, with plenty of beaches but no more. There is little to do after 6pm in Zanzibar. There is a developing commercial side, with a growth of offices and commercial real estate, but it is not being coordinated. Our plan is to reclaim an island from the sea. If we receive approval from the government, we intend to develop a financial hub on that island. Our plans incorporate villas, apartments, shopping malls, and commercial buildings. It will cater to tourism in particular, with airlines, tourist offices, shops, cafes, and fine dining options.

How do you see the private-public partnerships landscape?

We are pleased with the current landscape. We recently applied for a new industrial PPP to manufacture transformers and power meters. We prefer PPPs because they represent an assurance from the government that the output will increase. As a multinational company we have to compare the potential PPPs available in each specific market. For example, taking the demographics into account, a 5% market share in Nigeria or Kenya gives us the same amount of output as a 50% market share here. We believe more in collaboration than competition. It is better for us, therefore, if the government is a partnered stakeholder, giving better results.

Do you have a specific goal or expectation for 2017?

We want to be the number-one IT company in Africa, offering a range of integrated ICT products. We are working on e-governance, ERPs, SME solutions, and smart city apps; we currently provide a variety of mobile apps to corporates and governments in Africa. That is our focus because looking at the demographics of the country this will be where the opportunities will lie in the future.

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