Kamrul Hassan, an ICT entrepreneur, founded IPTech Limited in 2011 in South Sudan to offer training and services, following the country’s independence after a lengthy civil war.
The new country needed money to improve its digital infrastructure. Kamrul, an entrepreneur from Bangladesh, saw the chance and took it.
In 2012, Kamrul Hasan started an internet service provider (ISP) company called Fast Network Limited with four people, including two retired Bangladeshi army officers. This marked the beginning of the first Bangladeshi ISP company in South Sudan. In 2014, Kamrul sold his share in Fast Networks and started a new ISP business with IPTech Limited.
In 2016 and 2017, two more ISP companies, Smart Network and Juba Network Company Limited, began operating in the African country under Bangladeshi entrepreneurs’ leadership.
South Sudan has 36 registered ISP companies, but less than 20 are operational. Four Bangladeshi companies dominate the market, with an annual turnover of around 15 million US dollars and a total workforce of about 250.
Kamrul, Managing Director of IPTech Limited, said that there were doubts regarding the safety of investing in a new country with no infrastructure. However, Bangladeshi senior officials working in development organizations and peacekeeping missions have shown their support and encouragement from the very beginning, which motivated us to start as well.
Many Bangladeshis have become entrepreneurs after coming to work. Bangladeshi companies are currently doing well.’
Kamrul told , “Development of South Sudan’s telecommunication sector, installation of fiber optic, establishment of international gateways and data centers, assistance in establishment of telecommunication companies, formulation of ISP company’s policy is in our hands.”
“Bangladeshis are performing duties in different countries of the world as workers or less important. But here the situation is different. We are working at an important level of the government,’ he said.
In South Sudan, a country of 11 million people, less than 800,000 people have internet access. The impoverished country lacks the necessary infrastructure for technology and incurs huge costs. That is why there are very few individual internet users in the country, most of the users or subscribers are institutional.
Bangladeshi entrepreneurs say that the situation in South Sudan today is similar to what it was in Bangladesh 15-20 years ago.
In South Sudan, the cost of using the Internet at a speed of 1 Mbps is around $150-200 per month. On the other hand, in Bangladesh, you can get a 10 Mbps internet connection for only 800-1,000 Tk.
In South Sudan, the Chairman of Juba Network Company Limited, Sohail Mohammad Abdullah, explained that the country receives its bandwidth through Kenya and Uganda. As a result, the expenses are quite high. Additionally, the cost of importing machinery is also high, which further increases the operating expenses.
Sohail said that previously, the internet service relied on satellites and was slow. However, their efforts have led to the installation of fiber optic cables up to the Ugandan border. They have also established a network with towers along the border road.
“Nowadays we are using all kinds of modern technology. As a result, the speed of the Internet has increased.
Kamrul Hasan explained that South Sudan has underdeveloped infrastructure due to lack of funding. The government then left the entire sector to the private sector, leading to increased expenses due to the absence of public infrastructure.
Kamrul Hasan has been recognized as a Commercially Important Person (CIP) by the Government of Bangladesh in 2023 for his contribution to the country’s economy. He was acknowledged as the top expatriate sending foreign exchange through legal channels.
Sohail Muhammad Abdullah from Chittagong has also received the ‘Chamber Quality Award 2023’ from the National Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture of South Sudan.
In January 2023, South Sudan’s population was 11 million. The country had 773,000 internet users, 470,000 social media users, and a total of 3.58 million active mobile connections at the start of that year, according to a report by Datareportal.
Bangladeshis led the market:
After a long civil war, a peace agreement was signed in 2005 between the two parts of Sudan. Since then, South Sudan has been working towards becoming a separate country. Members of the Bangladesh Armed Forces were part of the UN peacekeeping mission. Also, the Bangladeshi development agency BRAC works in this underdeveloped region of Africa.
Bangladeshis have played key roles in various development organizations, including the United Nations, in South Sudan. This has led to a positive environment for Bangladeshis in the country. They have been actively contributing to South Sudan’s technology sector.
Since 2011, Bangladeshi researcher Dr. Mahmudul Islam has been the Senior Policy Advisor of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management of South Sudan. He stated, “Bangladeshi companies are performing very well and making a significant contribution to the country’s technology sector. Their fundamentals have improved, and they are now competing for market leadership.”
Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are expanding beyond information technology into hotel, motel, and resort businesses.
Additionally, they are interested in trading businesses such as supershops and importing and selling foreign products. Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have also ventured into the construction industry in the new country. PRAN-RFL products have been exported to South Sudan since last year by a retired army officer.