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26 January 2012 23:12

Davos 2012: Great transformation-shaping models. Alan-Knott Craig (Jnr) - CEO, MXit

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Alec Hogg is a writer and broadcaster. He founded Moneyweb

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    ‘Africa’s a hot property nowadays, and so are social networks.’


    ALEC HOGG: Alan-Knott Craig Junior is one of the Young Global leaders, but he’s also well known as the chief executive of MXit and Avatar, so I guess you’ve been paying a lot of attention to the social media side here.

    ALAN-KNOTT CRAIG: Ja, for sure. There’s plenty to go to. It's on the tip of everybody’s tongue, obviously. But it's probably the biggest trend from a text-base here as this kind of catch-all phrase of big data, and what companies are starting to do with this massive accumulation of data that they are trying to get from social networks and mobile operators and all of that. And, just interestingly, I was thinking about it just now. I think in a way things like Facebook and Twitter etc, what they do is they kind of allow the sunlight to kind of disinfect the government in a way because, by shining light on all the information inside these governments that has historically been repressed – because how do you kind of share the information if you didn't have a mobile phone before? That’s been a big, big theme, and I've found some very interesting kind of studies around what guys are doing … for governments, but also for big companies around trying to open up their databases, open up their data, without giving away individual information.

    ALEC HOGG: From a broader perspective as well, this Facebook versus Google war that I suppose is already going on, but is threatening to escalate – from an investment perspective that’s a big story. Would you be placing any bets yet?

    ALAN-KNOTT CRAIG: Well, I have placed my bet. I placed it on MXit, and technically we are up against the likes of Facebook down the line. And Google in a way, that stated their intention to be a social network.

    ALEC HOGG: Surely MXit must be a beautiful acquisition opportunity for one of the two giants that are fighting with each other?

    ALAN-KNOTT CRAIG: Ja. I do think, provided we don’t get smashed in the next year or so, it will be a very prize asset for somebody to come and acquire. But our intention is not to actually sell. Our intention is actually to take out Facebook, rather.

    ALEC HOGG: In an African context.

    ALAN-KNOTT CRAIG: In an African context. But I think if you get things right in an African context, it's far more – the African context is applicable to three-quarters of the world. The kind of US context is applicable to only the West. So in that space, between the Facebook, Google, or the great war watch, it's a lot of fun to watch. It's interesting to see who is winning there, and in some ways Google is winning and in some ways Facebook is winning. I kind of suspect there are some guys going to come out of the cracks behind the scenes that are going to win that. For now I'm quite glad that those big giants are kind of sitting and boxing and punching each other and leaving the rest of us to get on with it.

    ALEC HOGG: You are getting an opportunity to meet with very interesting people. We were talking earlier, and you said you are having dinner with Bill Gates tonight at 10 o’clock. That’s quite a nod to crack.

    ALAN-KNOTT CRAIG: Ja, well, Africa’s a hot property nowadays, and so are social networks. Africa’s big at the moment. It doesn’t have a lot of the baggage that I suspect China and Russia and stuff have. It's also new. We've been talking about India and the rest of the BRIC for many years. Now suddenly this is a chance for Africa to come into the sunlight – coming off a low base, it's very cool and that’s been quite nice.

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