Paratus will bridge Africa’s digital divide

06 March 2024

Schalk Erasmus, Chief Executive Officer: Paratus Group

Schalk Erasmus, Chief Executive Officer: Paratus Group

Paratus Group has set some ambitious goals to double its footprint in the next five years. Unconstrained by conventional thinking, the group’s latest strategy sets its sights remarkably high, embracing a bold and daring vision. Meet Co-Founder and Group CEO, Schalk Erasmus, who is leading the charge to massively expand the Group’s operations in Africa.

Our plan is to establish Paratus in all countries south of the equator. We are the number one telco to work for in Africa”, says Erasmus. “This is key to ensuring our goal is reached. Our people’s passion, professionalism and commitment are the cornerstones of the Paratus Group’s success to date. As we invest in new infrastructure, we are
determined to equally invest in empowering our people, in motivating them and in leading them to personal and shared success – because we know that we cannot achieve our ambitious expansions and growth without our people fully sharing in the journey.”

Erasmus and his team are busy focusing on realising the group’s vision to transform Africa through exceptional digital infrastructure and customer service. From a start-up 21 years ago, Paratus is already a major telecommunications player with an impressive footprint in Africa. Major milestones to date include the fact that Paratus owns its own infrastructure, has built expert teams in seven southern African countries, and serves customers across the continent with a seamless quality network and top-quality service. Through its extended satellite network, the Paratus group also serves customers in more than 30 African countries. It has built four of its own Data Center facilities in three African countries; it already has teleports in four countries, on two continents; it has recently added another teleport in South Africa and a low earth orbit
(LEO) teleport in Luanda; the group has laid thousands upon thousands of kilometres of fiber networks to create a continuous southern African network with unrivalled cross-border links for businesses in the SADC.

Paratus is now planning further fiber routes to Zimbabwe and to bridge connectivity gaps between DRC, Zambia, and Angola where the Paratus teleport will provide the
additional necessary infrastructure to create a regional hub. Erasmus says: “This is designed to stimulate the digital economy, capitalise on the opportunities created by various subsea cable systems in the region and to consolidate the Group’s strategy to create a viable communications hub in Angola, where Paratus is embarking on a project to build the first Tier IV by design data center (DC).”

Another key milestone for the group is that Paratus has signed African reseller and distribution agreements with major leading global LEO satellite providers. With the building of its Trans Kalahari Fiber route and the recent completion of the company’s Botswana Kalahari Fiber (BKF) route between Johannesburg and Swakopmund, Paratus has created a highspeed link to its landing station and the Equiano subsea cable. Erasmus explains: “With this route now completed, we are launching the continent’s first lowest latency superhighway from Johannesburg to Europe. With Equiano, we are providing 20 times more capacity not only to Namibia but to the whole southern African region.”

Another key strategic intervention has recently been to raise the funding needed to expedite this plan. In Q4 of last year, Paratus secured US$31- million in a deal that was facilitated by Cirrus Capital through Ninety One, a global asset manager, which mobilised capital from two of its funds: Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) and Ninety One Africa Credit Opportunities. The capital is being used to enhance last mile connectivity and to introduce more reliable internet services across three sub-regions in Africa, including seven countries: Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia. It will also help strengthen the continent’s core digital infrastructure, which is fundamental to building more advanced economies in Africa.

Erasmus says the investment is a strong and confident sign of the group’s intent to greatly enhance cross border fiber connectivity and facilitate economic development in the region. “It is good news for African businesses, for entrepreneurs, and for consumers across the continent. We are all very excited about the opportunities we can now create for our customers and for our people.”

Another major initiative is the current Rights Issue whereby existing Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) shareholders, including existing staff members who own shares, have first right to acquire additional shares and Paratus employees also have the option to buy shares and to become shareholders. The rights issue will double market capitalisation and shareholders will receive annual dividends (when declared). All staff are being given information sessions so that they may fully understand their options and opportunities to generate ownership. “This is a key intervention in raising more capital”, explains Erasmus, “and for the Group to be able to inject more funds into other key projects … and all while giving our staff a chance to become truly invested in the Group’s and their own future success.”

In his previous role as the Paratus Group Chief Operating Officer, he was responsible for many of the group’s recent achievements. Having been at the coalface, he knows and understands every facet of the business and has an expert eagle eye focussed on the many and complex developments as they roll out.

Focused and steadfast in his mission, Erasmus is committed to ensure consistency and excellence of the Group’s product delivery, anywhere in Africa. Along with his co-directors, shareholders, and colleagues, he is an absolute stickler for high quality and in not compromising on the Paratus promise to be Africa’s quality network. “We are already well on our way to becoming the unequalled integrated network services provider in Africa in delivering high-speed and low latency connectivity routes across the whole continent.

“As we push through with our expansion into new territories, I believe that our people and our partners – both in Africa and around the world - are key to ensuring the delivery of excellent service. With our ongoing commitment to massive investment in our infrastructure and with our focus on customer delivery and service, we are poised for top billing on the African telecommunications stage.”