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James Chona

ZAMBIA - Telecoms & IT

Do The Evolution

Business Leader (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique), Samsung


James Chona is currently the Business Leader for Samsung Electronics Zambia Branch, which is responsible for Operations in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. He has close to twenty years of experience, having previously served as General Manager at Pronet Zambia Limited, National Roll-Out Project Manager, and Sales and Marketing Manager at Africonnect Zambia as well as Regional Business Development Manager (Africa) at STM Networks in Los Angeles, US. Prior to this role and subsequent responsibilities, he was Zonal Business Manager at Airtel Zambia, having worked as Lead-Corporate Projects in the office of the Managing Director and Head of Data and Enterprise within Airtel Zambia. He is a PRINCE2 Practitioner and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Copperbelt University, a Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering from the Zambia Air Services Training Institute, and an Advanced Certificate in Telecom Market Policy and Regulation from Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona, Sweden.

"If the Zambian market continues to grow as it has been, we expect to enter the second quarter on positive growth across all sectors."

What is the importance of the Zambian market for Samsung’s overall strategy in Africa and worldwide?

Samsung began its operations in Zambia in October 2010. Due to our positive performance, Zambia became a regional hub effective as of April 2014. As a branch, we oversee operations in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi. This alone indicates the significance of the Zambian market for the company. Samsung is increasingly looking to empower regional offices with support provided from the African Regional Head Quarters based in South Africa.

After five years in Zambia, how would you describe the evolution of its ICT market?

It is showing positive growth, driven mainly by the two key factors of government commitment to the growth of ICTs as well as consumer driven demand growth.

“If the Zambian market continues to grow as it has been, we expect to enter the second quarter on positive growth across all sectors.”

What key priorities has Samsung established for Zambia for the next three to four years?

Our priority is to address consumer needs and wants and to ensure that our consumers have access to the products available on the market. The recent launch of the Galaxy S6 demonstrates the importance of the Zambian market globally; we were one of the first in the world to launch Galaxy S6. Our second priority is to be a partner in the development of the country at large. We want to be relevant to the country’s economic growth by contributing to national development, employment, expansion of our retail networks, and adding to the tax base of the country. We have a very strong corporate citizenship program and are already working with governments in the four countries we oversee mainly in the area of education and youth empowerment.

In terms of technology adoption, how would you characterize the Zambian market and its ability to adopt new technologies?

In Zambia we have three highly competitive mobile operators with consumers purchasing three or four phones to try out every offer available. At Samsung we find out how our products operate over various networks so we can identify with user experience. We are moving at a rapid pace, and adopting services as quickly as other operators worldwide. Zambians are particularly open to new technologies and keeping up with latest trends. It is apparent that Zambians are trying to stay up-to-date by acquiring the latest technologies, from mobile phones to cars and TVs. The mobile network and smartphone capabilities are reaching almost every corner of the country, and at least one mobile operator has launched 4G services. We are happy to observe that even in the remotest corners of Zambia, one can find at least a 3G signal.

How is Samsung increasing access to technology and information in remote and rural areas of the country?

The key to increasing access to information is making technological products affordable; the infrastructure for accessibility is already in place. We are finding partners in the government and stakeholders to take developments to rural areas and to ensure that our devices are affordable. Samsung is working to make devices with relevant content and high accessibility so naturally the next stage will be to deal with the interface. Most users wanting access to a mobile phone need some level of literacy, so we are making sure that the interface is equally accessible to people with higher or lower literacy levels. The interface should also deal with hearing and vision impairment. The challenge for developers and content managers is to produce content that is relevant to our customers, at a grassroots level and in the local language.

What are some of the trends likely to happen in 2016 in mobile technologies?

The key driver of mobile trends is usage. Everything around mobile technologies is centered on how we use data. Broadband internet on the phone is the biggest driver of trends, and social networking has become the most popular way to communicate on mobile phones. Voice, and even video calls, are coming in through social networking. For mobile communication operators the biggest revenue driver is voice calls and the challenge now is competing with applications, such as Whatsapp, that allow you to make voice calls. Along with SMS, we are seeing a reduction in people making traditional voice calls, and mobile operators will now have to think of ways to generate more revenue on data usage.

What are Samsung’s development plans for the near future in Zambia?

At the moment it is important for us to maintain our focus on retail expansion. We currently have four brand stores and want to make sure that wherever one is in the country, Samsung is easy to find. We now have a nationwide presence as our partners are investing in retail.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

We simply expect to see more growth in terms of our market development. While the start of the year was challenging for Zambian business, if the Zambian market continues to grow as it has been, we expect to enter the second quarter on positive growth across all sectors. And with the growth of the sectors themselves, we will see growth in provisional services, such as sales.

© The Business Year – May 2015



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