IT & Leadership: Rewriting the African narrative

By Karien Bornheim, CEO, and founder of FABS

Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS) is a company that was inspired by frogs, dumping grounds, and handouts. It’s the antidote to the patronising tone adopted by the rest of the world as it pats Africa on the back. It is the company that was started nearly 20 years ago to rewrite the narrative of Africa by showcasing how the continent is leading the way in innovation and invention.

“I was tired of the perception that Africa was the dumping ground for the rest of the world, that we always need a handout,” says Karien Bornheim, CEO, and founder of FABS. “We often leapfrog what the rest of the world has done. We don’t follow in footsteps and we aren’t hampered by legacy technology. What we bring are skills development, vendor agnostic solutions and answers to business problems.”

FABS has implemented market-leading solutions across Africa, working closely with local talent and business to ensure skills are circulated and investment managed carefully. Where other companies come in with packages and recommended solutions, FABS comes in with an open mind and open playbook.

The FABS ethos is to work with customers and their existing technology base. If a customer is working with a specific product or package, then the solution developed by FABS will integrate it effectively. Not only does this reduce costs, but it minimises the barrier to entry. Employees will already be comfortable with the system and the enhancements will only improve productivity, rather than inhibit it.

”Africa doesn’t need a handout, it’s offering the rest of the world a hand up”

“We try to look at things differently,” says Bornheim. “We talk to the customer, find out what their challenges are and look for solutions that resolve them. It doesn’t matter if this is in services, training, re-implementation or simply repurposing existing technology infrastructure. We help them to protect their existing investment.”

“We are completely vendor agnostic, so we only recommend new products to a client if the systems they have aren’t working for them or if they don’t already have something in mind,” she adds. “It’s about solving problems for clients, not adding new ones.”

To cement this ethos, FABS establishes relationships with vendors as required. The company is happy to engage with a new vendor if they have what the client wants. It’s not a model many vendors feel comfortable with, but it is one that works well and gets results.  One of the results is that ultimately both client and vendor see the value. It minimises change management issues, improves vendor and client engagement and assures everyone that the work done was the work needed.

“In addition to adding value to the client we also deliver value to their country,” says Bornheim. “We involve local people and companies and train them to deliver the first level of support. This saves money for the client and builds local skills – both critical in the current market.”

The FABS model ensures that clients have access to trained and skilled support in-country. They are self-sufficient at Level 1 and they also gain access to more advanced local IT support. FABS is then available should they require Level 2 or Level 3 skill sets. The company has a core team of technical individuals and thousands of consultants who specialise in specific areas. They are available on demand to ensure that customers always have access to the right skills.

“Our client base continues to grow as organisations respond to the transparency and accessibility of our model and our expertise,” concludes Bornheim. “We have been working in the industry for nearly 20 years and have developed significant solutions using emerging and high-end technologies. Our technical capabilities, understanding of customer challenge landscapes and commitment to local skills development help us build long-term customer relationships.”

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