Kathy Gibson reports from World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town – Huawei Technologies Africa plans to invest in the continent’s first Open Lab, to be sited in South Africa.

The Open Lab is part of the company’s plans for energetic growth on the continent and in South Africa, according to David Wang, vice-president: southern and eastern Africa region and Steven Wu, the newly-appointed CEO of Huawei South Africa.

Wu, who has served in various roles around the world before landing the leadership of the South African office a month ago, has a clear long-term vision for the market.

“My first wish is to assist customers to achieve business success with our solutions and service,” he says. “We also want to be a responsible social company in South Africa, by contributing to the country and the society. And we want to become the ICT leader in the country.”

Wang adds that Huawei currently has more than 7 000 employees in Africa, 1 100 of them based in South Africa, and about 60% of them are Africans. The company plans to grow its South African staff complement by 50% in the next five years.

In addition, the company has seven training centres on the continent, with four of them in southern and eastern Africa.

Training and skills transfer is key to Huawei’s planning for Africa, Wu says. “We expect rapid growth in the continent. Africa is a very important region for Huawei and South Africa is one of the most important.

“We also want to be a responsible corporate citizen, and so are investing in factories, R&D, training and skills transfer.

Wu has a three-pronged plan for developing the South African market, starting with training and skills transfer. “We want to empower the market and will enhance our training centre. In fact we have already trained more than 10 000 students, customers and local engineers.”

These skilled workers will play into the next element, which is software development and technical services. “We have already invested a lot,” Wu says. “But in the next five years I want to increase the influence of the local R&D centre.”

And this leads to the plan for an Open Lab. “Joint innovation is very important,” Wu says. “We need to have joint innovation with our customers and partners, working together to create new solutions.

“So we want to have an Open Lab that will deploy all of Huawei’s leading infrastructure and we will open our platform and interface to our partners.”

He stresses that the Open Lab is still in the very early planning stage.

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