Financial operations in most Malawian companies have been affected by COVID-19 and information and communications and technology (ICT) sector has not been spared from it because most of the ICT hardware equipments are designed from the West but manufactured in China.
Following national lockdowns in China, USA and Europe since February this year, the ICT industry has had serious disruptions in the delivery timelines.
This was said by Wisely Phiri, group managing director of one of Malawi's top ICT companies, SPARC Systems Limited in an interview, saying the development has resulted into countries being forced to rely on local solutions.
He added that there is a high demand for locally made software solutions but since Malawi's charges on data is very high means that if the solutions are hosted outside the country the cost is higher than accessing the same solution from other African countries.
"This has created an upsurge in appetite for local solutions," said Phiri.
Delivery timelines for the ICT hardware has turned to take a bit longer.
"But as SPARC, we have a big network of partners across the globe as such our delivery timelines are the best if you compare with most companies.
"For example as a warranty center and platinum partner for most manufacturers we are able to order equipment under what we call 'pre-build order', which normally help us reduce the delivery timelines by half.
"We have also special arrangements with logistics companies which help us bring the equipment very fast."
He added that SPARC has also invested in more software developers and educational services division which offers training to internal and external employees including certifications.
"This means we are developing software at a faster rate than before. This has also come at the time we already implemented cutting edge software like the 'SPARC Force' to be closer to our customers.
"This allows our customers to get support from our engineers within seconds of them logging a case with us."
Asked that solutions SPARC is providing to companies during this pandemic, Phiri said they are offering a lot of software development to the academia, banks and governments.
"We have seen an upsurge for the demand of these from these institutions as well as an upsurge on demand for local skills which has resulted into companies asking for our services from our educational centre.
"The education center business has increased by over 1000%. I think this is because people are no longer allowed to fly to foreign countries like India or South Africa for training, as such they are forced to seek these trainings locally.
"I should say we have always been offering these services but most people wanted to go outside the country mostly to get more allowances from their companies and for sightseeing."
He went on to say that COVID-19 has heavily affected the companies that SPARC deals with that include banks and telecommunication companies as such this has had a huge impact on their businesses as a number of projects and contracts had been suspended.
"On the good note, COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation and reliance on local solutions as such we have seen an upsurge in demand for our software solutions as well as educational services.
"Covid-19 is upon us and it has come with new challenges. In all this, you can see that companies are now forced to use locally available solutions as skills in foreign countries are now restricted.
"As one of the leading technology company in Africa, SPARC investing heavily in terms of the human capital and equipment inorder to offer the best solutions to our customers.
"Our engineers are ranked amongst the best in the world and have offered solutions to many companies across Africa. As companies look for locally available solutions, we are here to support their businesses."