IBM study reveals how African businesses can bridge technology gap
IBM today announced the results of a new study which found that while nearly 87 percent of African IT leaders rank new technologies such as analytics, cloud, mobile and social media as being critical to business success, only 53 percent are pushing forward with adoption.
The findings also confirmed that 36 percent of the African businesses embracing emerging technologies could be considered “Pacesetters” among their peers in terms of their focus on prioritising and rapidly adopting technologies.
The new study is entitled Setting the pace in Africa: How IT leaders deliver on the potential of emerging technologies.
A total of 180 Africa-based IT leaders across 29 industries in Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Morocco were surveyed by IBM’s Center for Applied Insights, in collaboration with the IBM Center for CIO Leadership*.
African economies are expected to sustain high levels of economic growth over the next decade, boosting consumer-facing industries by an estimated US$400 billion by 2020.
Sectors pegged for growth include retail/wholesale, retail banking, telecommunications and tourism.1 This represents an enormous opportunity for African businesses – if they are prepared to seize it.
However, the IBM study found that a lack of technology adoption is preventing many African businesses from achieving growth and progress.
IBM General Manager for East Africa, Nicholas Nesbitt, said: “The primary reasons for not moving on adoption were a need for technology leaders to play a greater role in strategic business leadership, a lack of IT skills development across the continent, and information security concerns,”
African businesses identified as Pacesetters in the IBM survey take a very different approach to addressing IT concerns. For example, 85 percent of Pacesetters link IT investments to business outcomes, compared with 67 percent of their peers.
A total of 79 percent of Pacesetters use metrics and scorecards to assess IT risk, compared to 46 percent of their peers. A total of 46 percent of Pacesetters develop IT skills to meet future business needs, compared to 26 percent of their peers.
Forward-thinking African companies have found ways to empower their IT leaders through a cultural shift, the report adds.
The Pacesetters also garner management support and view IT as integral to business strategy, not just a supporting player in the company’s success.
This level of internal engagement requires clear, open communication and collaboration between IT leaders and their business peers, something the Pacesetters do 40 percent more often, according to the IBM survey.
“Africa is characterised by an innovative mindset, and a billion-strong market ready for innovative products and solutions,” Nesbitt said.
“Regardless of individual realities, the opportunity for business growth through IT adoption cannot be denied.
“The Pacesetters in Africa’s business community have seen the potential and taken action to help them realise it. With the right strategy, their peers can follow suit.”
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.