LTW, AP

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – IBM (NYSE: IBM) is taking direct aim at increasing business across Africa with a 10-year contract it has struck with telecommunications provider

Bharti Airtel, which is based in India, operates in the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The company already works closely with IBM in India where Big Blue manages its information technology infrastructure.

The focus across Africa will be growth in mobile communications.

The new deal doesn’t have a published price tag. The agreement is expected to be finalized in the fourth quarter.

IBM will consolidate Bharti Airtel’s technology in Africa and manage the technologies behind day-to-day operations.

Bharti Airtel hopes the changes will help it reach more than 100 million African customers by 2012.

IBM describes the agreement as “far reaching,” one that could:

“Transform telecommunications in Africa
•”Build a capability to provide world-class services and offerings to companies who operate across Africa
•”Radically jumpstart IBM’s growth efforts in Africa”

“We see our strategic relationship with Bharti Airtel as a powerful example of building a smarter planet.,” said IBM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam Palmisano in a statement. “We have achieved great success together in India, and now we are bringing that model to Africa.

“By building a 21st century telecommunications infrastructure for the continent – in effect, treating all of Africa as a system of systems – we expect to help spark transformation not just in communications but across all sectors of society – empowering businesses, governments and individual citizens to connect, innovate and achieve economic growth,” he added.

IBM will consolidate 16 IT operations and then manage applications, data center operations, servers, storage and desktop services.

“In addition, IBM plans to deploy a powerful content management system to offer rich media content such as music and video over mobile devices, while simultaneously facilitating the growth of the application developer community in Africa,” IBM said in the announcement.

. The strategic partnership will enable Bharti Airtel to scale its network and systems to more than 100 million African customers by 2012.

Bharti Airtel operates in 19 countries in Asia and Africa.

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