A rising star among small businesses
Nadir Kudsy had a mind full of ideas which he set about executing and has consequently established a thriving printing business in South Sudan. We ask him how he did it.
Who are you?
My name is Nadir Kudsy (36) and I run Afristar International, which is based in Tong Ping, Juba, South Sudan.
What is your business and where does it operate from?
Afristar International operates from two business units. I have an offset printing press, which is the first in South Sudan, and a Logistics and Procurement division. Our office and printing facility is located near the airport in Juba.
What are its products/ services?
The printing press specialises in commercial printing ie posters, books, banners, T-shirts carbon copy papers such as receipt books etc. The Logistics and Procurement division focuses on participating in tenders and supply contracts for anything ranging from office furniture, power generators, to the supply and erection of prefabricated housing and office solutions.
How did you get started?
I arrived in Juba for the first time in February 2006 to carry out a reconnaissance and established pretty quickly that the market was in need of logistics solutions. I set up a small office in Juba town. I then focused on logistics solutions for clients who wanted to import goods and equipment to South Sudan.
In 2007, I felt South Sudan was in need of a local printing press, I pursued the idea and talked to specialists in the field and then decided to invest in one. Our printing press has been operational since 2008.
We are very proud of our policy of employing and training South Sudanese women. We have employed and trained more than 150 South Sudanese women over the past few years. They are at the heart of our printing press operation.
Did you have any help such as financial or business advice?
Afristar’s working capital was acquired as a result of a couple of investors having faith in the project in South Sudan. Naturally, the major investment was the printing machines. The bulk of our investment was obtained through business associates and friends.
How many people were employed when you started and how many are there now?
Afristar International started with one employee. Me. Over the years we have recruited a number of employees for various positions and now we currently employ close to 75 people.
Can you give details of the company’s success in terms of profit/turnover/assets?
Our work is very much affected by the political climate in South Sudan. Afristar is not the richest company in South Sudan liquidity-wise as we believe in investing and re-investing. We are constantly expanding our operations, acquiring land and building new compounds to accommodate our growth.
Why did you want to set up your own business?
I mostly set up my own business, because I have ideas that would be difficult to implement if I was employed by someone else.
What sort of attributes do you think are necessary to be successful in business?
Apart from the obvious attributes such as honesty and professionalism, I believe that in order to succeed in South Sudan, one has to be extremely patient and very resourceful.
What drives you to succeed?
I like the feeling of being challenged on a daily basis.
What advice would you give to a youngster wanting to set up their own business today?
Do not invest until you feel you have a good grasp of the way things work in the private sector in South Sudan. It is essential that young investors start by identifying what it is they would like to do and then conduct a market analysis before deciding to invest.
Is it harder or easier to set up in business when you are young?
I guess there are advantages and disadvantages in both scenarios. Youth provides you with the vigour and ambition that is essential to success. On the other hand, age gives you the edge in terms of being able to see things from more than one angle.
What sort of help would you like to have been able to access when you started out that wasn’t available to you?
Hindsight! Apart from that, I would have wanted to see more Government support provided to foreign investors. I strongly believe in the impact of the private sector in capacity building. Post-conflict zones are always built by the private sector.
What are your goals/aims for your business?
In the next two years, I would like to see Afristar International branching out to other parts of South Sudan.
Where would you like your business to be in 10 years’ time?
Online! I believe that within a ten-year time frame, South Sudan would have caught up with the rest of the region as far as online business is concerned. I would like to be able to obtain the majority of information on any business I want to be a part of online.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”