How Africa's biggest digital media company is developing young talent across the continent
Ringier Africa is the leading diversified digital media company in Africa. It operates the leading classifieds platforms, new media publisher and new marketing & digital services provider across the continent.
Practically, this means that Ringier enables small merchants in Dakar, to sell their offerings to a large audience via its Expat-Dakar platform, inform and entertain millions in Lagos via its Pulse news site and bring large businesses and SMEs online in Nairobi with the help of its digital provider Ringier Digital Marketing. These are just some examples in a portfolio of many brands, platforms and businesses.Overall, Ringier Africa’s business is marked by three characteristics:
First, its businesses are focused on the digital space. While its 185-year old parent company Ringier AG is also running traditional media - newspapers and radio stations in Switzerland, in Africa, Ringier has been convinced from the start, 5 years ago, that digital poses big opportunities. Many of the challenges for businesses in Africa, from media distribution to logistics, payments and more can be helped or even leapfrogged by technology.
Second, Ringier Africa often works with the informal sector, enabling it and advancing it, in a bid to formalize it. This is true for the merchant selling products on Expat-Dakar with a guarantee for the customer or the freelance writer on Pulse with a formal contract. With a large part of the African economy still being in the informal sector, digitization is a true enabler of formalization with benefits of higher security, taxation abilities by the government and more.
Finally, Ringier Africa’s businesses employ 700 mostly young people in 10 countries. With an average age of under 30 years old, Ringier in Africa can truly be called a young company. In the digital space this comes with great advantages as young people have grown up with digital tools and are naturally eager to learn more about them.
This is crucial for Ringier in Africa as its business is fully based on our people and their talent to inspire others: through their online writing, filming, coding, marketing planning and more. While many of them have already gone through formal education when coming to Ringier, some have simply been spotted doing great work online and have been brought in.
Ringier therefore spends a lot of time working with its young teams to develop their existing talents further. It does so in various ways. On the one hand, it brings learnings from its international operations in Switzerland, Eastern Europe and Asia, where it has invested a lot of money in becoming a digital front runner, into its African markets. For example, Ringier is a leader in the classifieds marketplace space in Europe and works with its teams in Africa on how to successfully scale the monetization of their platforms as it has done in Europe.
On the other hand, Ringier can through its network have internal and external experts visit these markets to work with the teams and do intensive training sessions on-ground.
A recent example is the visit of renowned journalist Kai Diekmann, ex-Editor-in-Chief of the German Bild-newspaper in West Africa, working with the team of Ringier’s new media publisher Pulse in Nigeria and Ghana on digital journalism.
Thirdly, Ringier tries to enable self-learning in its businesses. For example, last year it launched free use of Lynda.com, for its employees – and online platform for training courses in all type of disciplines.
In addition to working with its own employees, Ringier has developed the Ringier Digital Marketing (RDM) Academy to train young people to make use of digital technology for their or their employer’s businesses. Many of the people that have already taken the course have done so to support their own business. And their use of digital will surely be a big push for them in growing and further formalizing their business.
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.”