Africa: a continent with huge digital potential
Mobile networks are driving Africa forward as an emerging digital and entrepreneurial economy as the continent embraces the power of connectivity
Africa is a continent that offers huge potential to businesses which are willing to be flexible, able to move fast, and capable of adapting to the challenges of a rapidly developing region. According to the UN, more than 50 per cent of global population growth to 2050 is predicted to be in Africa – the population of sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to double in that time. This means there is a young population, and it is the young who are usually the first to embrace new technology and see the possibilities.
Since the inception of GSM networks some 30 years ago, mobile communications have developed into the main driver of economic growth in developing regions. In some African countries with a lack of physical infrastructure, mobile phones have provided the first ever means of efficiently connecting individuals and communities. This ever-growing digital ecosystem is therefore pivotal to the continued economic emergence of the continent. Access to the Internet via smartphones means acquiring information, education and sharing of knowledge, and the creation of many small businesses driven by the availability of microfinancing.
The GSMA sees sub-Saharan Africa as the fastest growing region in terms of mobile connections, with a CAGR of 4.6 percent and an increase of some 167 million subscribers by 2025. The GSMA expected 3G to overtake 2G in 2019, to become the leading mobile technology in the region. The adoption of 3G has doubled since 2017, and mobile broadband (3G and above) networks now cover more than 70 percent of the population.
As a ‘mobile first’ continent with little history of traditional landline connections, both businesses and consumers are quick to embrace and exploit the potential of the mobile Internet. Mobile operators in the region such as MTN are well known for their innovation – for example MTN’s Mobile Money is empowering entrepreneurs to build businesses and increase employment opportunities. Mobile Digital payments has catalysed several sectors across Africa, including solar power and water providers and insurance companies. These businesses have been able to reach and connect with a whole new customer base through the power of mobile.
The growth of Africa’s ICT sector has been largely attributed to the wider accessibility of digital financial services.
Mobile-enabled platforms are creating new value chains and new business models. These platforms have the capability to eliminate the huge inefficiencies that have developed over time using ‘traditional’ methods. Mobile connectivity can be the bedrock of increasing automation and the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI). Automation and AI can increase the employment opportunities for the low-skilled by creating and building training programs that become more tailored and sophisticated as the workers become more confident and capable. AI can also be deployed to increase the effectiveness and reach of healthcare services in Africa, using mobile networks for remote diagnosis and monitoring patients with long term chronic conditions who may not easily be able to travel to medical centres.
The growth of digital services, whether business, financial or entertainment, will continue with the increased penetration of smartphones and broadband networks. This is a chain reaction catalyst – greater connectivity brings more opportunities, better education, and more widespread financial inclusion. The Internet also delivers critical health information and opens up accessibility to medical advice. This leads to significant benefits both to individuals and the wider medical profession who can liaise with international colleagues and increase their own skills and knowledge to improve the overall health of the region.
Africa has the potential to leapfrog more established economies and surge forward, driven by its enthusiastic youth and entrepreneurial spirit. Of course there are challenges – many people still do not have access to clean safe drinking water or basic medical facilities, but the power of connectivity to catalyse the development of a more robust infrastructure cannot be underestimated. Today’s world runs on enhanced connectivity and we are proud to be a part of Africa’s evolution in leveraging new digital capabilities.
Tecnotree is a trusted partner of several local cellular service providers (CSPs), and we are proud to have a longstanding partnership with MTN Group, serving as the Group’s primary BSS provider in many of their operating countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Swaziland, Benin Guinea Conakry, Congo, Zambia & Sudan. We also serve CSPs in the African sub-continent in Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, and Namibia with our platforms and products. Tecnotree is committed to employing local talent in each of these countries. We do our utmost to provide training so that these employees can be upskilled and educated in our cutting-edge technologies, providing them with the chance to work in a global company.
Africa’s appetite for emerging as a digital and entrepreneurial economy through the power of connectivity will provide it the ability to compete and leap-frog ahead of many emerging economies. Tecnotree has been serving this market for over 2 decades and is truly benefited from this journey and is proud to be part of it success.
For more information on business topics in Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”