Cumii is a pan-African IoT company that focuses on disruptive technology that transforms Africa. Its philosophy and DNA is built from the “The Internet of Things” (a vision where everything is connected), “Machine to Machine” and Big Data. Recently, ZTE Technologies interviewed Norman Moyo, CEO of Cumii. He shared with us his career history and business philosophy; Cumii’s performance of 2015; the solutions and services of Cumii; the opportunities for IoT sector; his priorities for the next five years. He also talked about his comments on ZTE and his vision for Cumii as well.
You had been awarded the prestigious Global Telecoms “Top 40 under 40 Telecoms Leadership Award”. Could you tell us your career history?
Yes. I started my career in telecommunication at 1998. I think that is the very beginning of the telecom sector in Africa. I used to work for Econet in Zimbabwe before I started my Pan Africa voyage which took me to Zambia (Celtel) ; Nigeria (Celtel/ Zain ) ; Bahrain ( Zain) ; Tanzania ( Etisalat / Helios Towers) . After working in Southern , East and West Africa I have paid substantive school fees that accords me the title of a diverse Pan African business manager. The years I spent in Nigeria in particular were very fulfilling . I guess I could say I earned my second MBA in managing business in Nigeria , one of the most sophisticated and highly rewarding places to do business in Africa. I have been fortunate to be involved in the GSM industry in the late 90s, at the very onset of the industry . I was also at the forefront of the emergence of the concept of a fully fledged Tower companies era and telecom infrastructure as a CEO for Helios Tanzania , which was the largest towerco in Africa outside Nigeria then . Now I am back within Econet Group and am spearheading the first fully fledged Pan African IOT company offering connected cars , connected home , connected health.
When I was working in Nigeria as a team leader, our team managed to achieve some very exciting achievements, this is one of the reasons why I have been nominated “Top 40 under 40 Leadership Award” by GTB. It is really a highly recognition of our big success that we achieved in Nigeria with Celtel where I worked CMO.
Could you introduce us to Cumii?
Cumii is a pan-African IoT company. At the moment, what we focus on is three major verticals: connected cars, connected homes, and connected health.
At Cumii, we specialise in disruptive technologies that transform lives, businesses and the global economy. Our philosophy and DNA is built from the “The Internet of Things” (a vision where everything is connected), “Machine to Machine” and Big Data.
Why we chose those three verticals? It is because they are very relevant to the continent, and they would create a lot of value for Africa. What we need in Africa is things that impact our pattern of life, improve the quality of our lives, and enhance public health and productivity . I believe our connected car, connected home and connected health can meet all of these requirements.
How would you assess the performance of Cumii in 2015?
Cumii was launched in 2014 starting with connected cars in Zimbabwe but it has grown significantly across the continent . The business follows a unique business smart partnering model working directly with Mobile network operators in Africa who already have unique business to consumer relationships . Cumii ‘s first major commercial agreement was with Vodacom in Tanzania which is expected to transform fleet management environment for both corporates and government alike.
In 2015, we signed up a number of partnerships with some big operators and technology partners in Africa. The strategic and technological partnerships are very important to us. We have built an ecosystem to deliver unique services to our customers in a smarter and effective way . We try not be all things to all people but do those things we can do better than anyone in the world.
One thing I would like to mention is that what makes Cumii very unique is our execution capability. In order to deliver IoT in Africa, we need to execute very differently from to overcome the difficult terrain we face in the continent. Every country in Africa is different, unique and require high level of technology and expertise to deploy and integrate services. We created an IOT execution platform platform called Technite, where industrial engineers, auto engineers, technicians, and other skilled people across Africa can be easily accessed on an application just like you can access services such as Uber.. Technite is like your equivalent of Uber only that on the other side of the app we have a highly skilled installer capable to install connected home system , fleet tracking devices , fibre to home , satellite in home , business monitoring systems. Any customer in Africa should be able to open the app on his phone and search for a nearest installer and the system will scan and allocate the nearest pre-vetted, trained and accredited installer to undertake the required installation once we launch services in that country. This is a very unique aspect which will create significant economies of scale , skill and expertise and improve productivity to companies and reduce installation costs for customers . We have registered more than 1000 highly skilled installers in 17 countries in Africa and targeting to grow this to 10,000 and creating equally the same entrepreneurial opportunities.
We seek to embrace IOT disrupt our ways of working for the better . We have created a new platform which is going to make it easier for African to do business.
What kind of solutions and services do you offer? How have African markets responded to them?
Connected cars is not necessarily a new phenomena in Africa because tracking services have been around for a while. However, we are reengineering fleet management and personal vehicle management in a progressive and disruptive manner using our big data analytics platform. Companies are keen on enjoying nearly 25% fuel and maintenance savings over and above other services such as geo fencing services which reports vehicles that stray away from defined routes. Connected car has been well received, particularly by insurance companies. They like the tracking device because it can give them a lot of information about driver behavior , distance travelled , and mitigate against fraudulent claims. Governments in Africa are keen to use the technology to connected all public passenger carrying buses to monitor driver behavior thereby reducing public transport accidents . For example after we shared the concept with the Tanzanian ‘s SUMATRA agency they have since released a tender to connect all public vehicles in the country . We expect the trend to continue in different parts of the continent.
Connected home is an integrated alarm and security system ( sensors , cameras) that comes with home energy automation features like remote light switches, power consumption monitoring air conditioner control to name a few. Connected home helps homes and small businesses reduce their energy costs substantially , improve security both at home and at their business premises . A mother with a connected app in her hands can monitor the welfare of their children at home by tapping onto their phone , switch off and switch on lights even better still define simple rules such as air conditioner and lights should switch off as soon as a room is empty . Imagine the amount of power we save in both public and private institutions if all lights and air conditioners were sensor monitored . Considering the catastrophic and paralyzing effect of poor power or dirty power situation in Africa any technology that has potential to reduce 40% consumption of power from a business or a home has potential to create a seismic effect to the continent ‘s economy . Africa sometimes suffers more from inefficient use of a scarce resource like power . Intelligent technology can help and IOT provides the answer in the short to medium term
Cumii believes that there are three things that will transform the continent , telecoms , power and healthy sector. Cumii Health as a business is an integrated health sector platform in the IOT space . Cumii ‘s first offering evolves around wellness monitoring products . Our first focus was to tackle one of Africa ‘s “silent “killers , Blood pressure and Diabetis . Our IOT platform is leapfrogging the continent towards a smart health continent without necessarily the huge infrastructure investment most countries have made . Let me better illustrate it for you this way. We are going to connect Mr Mwangi in a remote village in Kenya with a sim enabled device to measure his chronic Blood pressure , his readings will be sent to his daughter ‘s phone in the city , and simultaneously to a medical specialist who will monitor if his readings are within acceptable levels in real time. Mr Mwangi will also receive periodic health tips on how to improve his readings and stay health . If indeed the doctor notices anything untoward on the readings there is a dial a doc service or the doctor will recommend a check up. A single innovation here has eliminated the need for Mr Mwangi to jump into a bus to visit a nearby clinic which probably would cost him $50 and possibly another $20 doctors to see a doctor plus medicines . We are offering this service on a monthly subscription service below $5 per month and payments are all integrated to the MPesa / Eco cash mobile platforms. This is the power of very relevant localized application of IOT to the health sector in Africa. You can imagine other services we can integrate to this platform and the benefits that can accrue to health planners from the big data .
What opportunities do you identify in terms of Internet of Things?
Beyond connected car, connected home, and connected health, there are a lot of opportunities. By its nature, IoT is extremely broad. What Cumii is trying to do is to find those opportunities that meet the market needs in Africa. We want to help the ordinary men in the street, to help business men improve their business performance, to help the minister of health who is trying to transform the health sector , and to help the minister of education who is trying to use technology to improve the quality of education. Connected agriculture is also a good opportunity. We are expanding our product roadmap to include animal tracking . Cows matter to Africa and are a valuable investment and asset to ordinary farmers.
Those are things we are looking for. We will only focus on those verticals that will create the most transformation for Africa and certainly a service that will enable a housewife to open and close curtains while sitting in their office will only come in little later down the pipeline.
What is your business philosophy?
First, I like to find and do things that I’m very passionate about, this is very important. I want to find what my team is passionate about, and when we find it, we follow it through fanatically . I wrote about these in my book , Rumble in the Jungle , leadership from an African Perspective.
Second, we have to understand what business we are in. What is the very thing that Cumii can do better than any company in the world? The answer is: we can be the best IoT company in Africa. That’s how we become very unique. I believe we can do our business very well, because we combine the best of global technology , we got the knowledge of the African market, and we can open many partnerships in Africa.
The third thing is to understand what the one thing that drives our business . What is that one thing? For Cumii today, it is just achieving a smart connection. We like to connect machine to machine, man to man, machine to mobile. For the next 36 months, getting a smart connection is what we are intensely focusing on.
The last but not least, my philosophy is about smart business and smart partnering. I always believe in working smart, not working hard. I encourage my team to learn to work smarter, which means you have to leverage on people and companies who are good at what they do, not trying to do things that others can do better than you. Always looking for a good horse to ride on. We try to build a very lean and agile organization, which is a very small, experienced and qualified team, working with our smart partners. We are going to establish an ecosystem with smart partners to deliver what we want to deliver for our customers. For me, I believe we are the next generation organization, and what we need to do is continue to focus on executing well!
What will your priorities be over the next five years?
We spent the past 18 months trying to understand the needs of our customers and partners, like our mobile network partners, what they are looking for and what are their pain points. We have gathered a lot of insights from our partners . Now we move into an execution mode . How do we execute the projects? How do we get that smart connection? These are our priorities.
We will continue to focus on relevant and focused innovation strategy as a key priority but guided by customer insights and will continue to look for disruptive technologies that changes the landscape.
How do you comment on ZTE’s technologies and solutions? What are your expectations for the cooperation with ZTE?
First, in Africa, ZTE has become one of the strongest and trusted technology brands today, particularly from the equipment point of view and from the technology point of view. ZTE has got a massive pan-Africa footprint, and Cumii is a pan-Africa player, so we immediately see a strategic overlap of in the countries that ZTE operates and the same countries that Cumii aspires to play. That is a good opportunity right there. Let’s just work together.
Second, ZTE has got technology and good capacity to scale. We want to be able to leverage on that technology and capacity to scale. ZTE has not only facilities but also actual networking experience. That’s why we choose ZTE as our one of our key strategic partners for IOT.
I have been to ZTE head quarters three times over the the past 10 years and when I came here the first time, there were very few IoT products or services on offer . Now I found that ZTE has moved very far from where I last left. For me, that is the kind of direction I’m keen on to build on .
ZTE is customer-oriented. It is flexible and sensitive to customer needs in different markets. ZTE can provide various solutions and quality services for customers according to their painpoints. That is very exciting for me. I’m happy with it.
What is your future vision for Cumii?
We want to be one of the most successful pan-Africa IoT companies in Africa, and we want to help Africa leapfrog in the next generation. We are very interested in transforming African through technology. I think that is what we are going to do.
IoT can be adopted in all industries, whether it is health, agriculture, or education, we cut across all these sectors. Our vision is to become one of the biggest enablers of the next revolution in the continent. That is our aspiration.
Cumii will showcase at the 2017 Internet of Thing Forum Africa expected to take place on 29 and 30 March at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg.