Rolf Mendelsohn, one of the co-founders, Chief Technical Officer, and now Chief Operations Officer Designate – Central & West Africa, of the Paratus Group.
Rolf Mendelsohn can be described as a confident, analytical, and ambitious man. He is part of a team of founding partners who have been leading the group’s charge into new territories in Africa for the past 20 years. Rolf is one of the original co-founders of the Paratus Group and has also been the CEO of Paratus Angola (formerly ITA) for the past seven years. He is fluent in Portuguese, German and is currently learning French as the group ventures into more French speaking countries; he applies himself to learning all he can about whatever will help him be more successful on the ground, no matter where he is.
One of the latest conquests was the deal struck in the DRC for Paratus, with its local partner, GBS, to activate hundreds of kilometres of fiber from the cable landing station in Muanda to Kinshasha. Rolf has his sights on more business in DRC and other central and West African countries, as he explains: “DRC is a huge market for us. With nine border countries and 100 million people, it’s a country that’s wrought with challenges. It’s a tough market to crack but our experience of doing business in West Africa for the past 20 years has taught us how to deal with these challenges. Our plan is to grow our presence there and to link up with our network footprint in other parts of the continent – and especially to our hub in Angola. This will be good for the DRC as well as for our customers elsewhere. It will happen.”
The right balance when striking a deal is a prerequisite, as Mendelsohn knows very well. “You need to be patient, to listen and to not give up.” This innate sense gives Mendelsohn a distinct advantage, while balancing and complementing his sense of adventure and fearlessness. “I think it’s important to travel on a road full of challenges. That way, you can confidently conquer your fears in that country knowing that you’re not shying away from anything.”
As one might well imagine, it’s not ‘a one size fits all’ situation in Africa because of the different cultures, economies, customs, and languages, all need to be navigated and understood. In DRC, for example, where the infrastructure, the connectivity, the roads, and rail systems are all very poor, there is a strong and essential culture of recycling everything. “They could teach a lot of first world countries about the real appreciation of things and how to make them last longer. They’re recycling everything they can in DRC, because they need to – and they do it all without complaint.”
“We want to work with them and give them what they need, within their framework. They have a more efficient circular economy than most of those that are striving to achieve such a thing.”
This thinking underlines the group’s vision to transform Africa through exceptional digital infrastructure and customer service. “Our objective is to double revenue within the next five years through expansion into central and West African countries.”
From a start-up 20 years ago, Paratus is already a major telco player with an impressive footprint in Africa. Owning its own infrastructure, building expert teams in seven southern African countries, and serving customers across the continent with a seamless quality network service – these are the cornerstones of the Paratus group’s success so far.
Paratus group also has points of presence (PoPs) in the USA, UK and Europe and provides services in more than 35 African countries via fiber, microwave, and satellite network; it was the appointed landing partner of the Google Equiano subsea cable in Namibia (which landed earlier in July); and has already built four of its own Data Center facilities in three African countries.
Asked about new technologies, Mendelsohn is excited but equally keen not to give too much away. “Satellite will always be an important part of connectivity solutions in Africa and there are big things happening around low earth orbit satellite, which will deliver fiber-like speeds and low latency.”
Mendelsohn enjoys running and his favourite past times include spending time in nature, travel, and fishing. He is always on the look-out for bright young minds who are prepared to also put in the hard work. “Recruiting the best technical expertise for our new operations is critical for delivering the service and connectivity that Paratus is intent upon supplying. Africans deserve and need to be connected – we can help transform Africa through digital solutions backed by a high-quality network offering.” If anyone can help bring about the kind of transformation needed on the continent and unleash its potential, it’s the Paratus Group.