May 19, 2020

Preparing for a new generation of African digital consumers

Digital Transformation
Jonathan Plant
5 min
Preparing for a new generation of African digital consumers

Jonathan Plant, Marketing Director at Openet discusses the evolution of digital consumers in Africa.

Global excitement surrounding the global availability of 5G has been tempered in parts of Africa. While further launches are anticipated in 2020, only South Africa and Lesotho can currently boast commercially live 5G networks. The reality for most African countries is that commercially available 5G services won’t arrive for another five years or more.

The rate of 5G development across Africa must be viewed in the appropriate context, however. While mobile broadband technology is the most popular way of enabling internet access, 3G and 4G connections only surpassed 2G in Sub-Saharan Africa last year (GSMA Intelligence, 2019). Nobody doubts that Africa will embrace 5G, but it will do so at a pace that makes most commercial sense to operators in each African country.   

Playing the 5G long game

Most African operators have invested a lot of money in 4G technology and are some way away from sweating these assets. With the widespread absence of fibre infrastructure in many African countries, 3G and 4G are the key technologies providing access to a new generation of young, ‘digital-first’ African subscribers. There is a growing familiarity across this new demographic when it comes to accessing new digital platforms, including new content services and social media. In most cases, 4G provides more than adequate connectivity to power these apps and services, leaving most operators content to play the 5G long game.

However, according to GSMA Intelligence, 44 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population, equivalent to just over 450 million people, are under the age of 15 years, and most will own a mobile phone for the first time over the next decade. This young demographic will take a digital-first approach to life – the work they do, the channels via which they communicate and the content they consume. Will their thirst for digital inclusion accelerate appetite for 5G? Maybe, but only if the business case supports it.

Riding multiple horses

Africa offers such a diverse collection of mobile industry economies, all at different stages of technological maturity. Many operators are managing the complexity of running 2G, 3G, 4G technologies in tandem. In addition, Africa is by and large a prepaid mobile market with many African subscribers carrying multiple SIM cards from multiple providers in search of the best tariffs.


Most African subscribers are extremely cost-conscious, and so will be unwilling—or unable—to spend money on a lot of data. But if operators are to reach wider audiences and entice subscribers to consume more content and data, they must do so in innovative and creative ways. For example, through ad-funded or zero-rated services. In South Africa, Vodacom has launched the “Vodacom Flex” service, which allows subscribers to “snack” on limited internet services when they run out of data. Flex is backdropped by advertisements which in turn generate advertising revenue for the operator and increases brand engagement. Monetising these new services will be key as African operators seek to grow their subscriber base and extend their 4G offering.

With so much emphasis on monetising 3G and 4G, it is easy to understand why 5G is regarded as five years away from becoming a mainstream African reality. But that isn’t stopping Rain and Vodacom pressing ahead with 5G network deployments in South Africa, nor MTN planning a launch in Nigeria, nor Safaricom in Kenya. But then many of these projects are based on different ROI calculations and use cases. Fixed wireless access is one of the most compelling African 5G use cases – the means to leverage a high throughput mobile broadband technology to deliver an effective replacement for inadequate fixed line infrastructure. This places less emphasis on prioritising 5G cellular mobile access; but then, will 5G fixed wireless access adoption accelerate the delivery of 5G mobile broadband?

Preparing for the unexpected

As with all other generations of technology, 5G uptake in Africa will start when the economics of deployment and consumption work for all parties. African subscribers will only buy into the 5G dream once they have fully enjoyed 4G. The pricing and availability for new digital services today will therefore be critical in capturing the imaginations of the new digital native African user. This will require agility and flexibility from African operators. It will force them to react to new opportunities and bring new services to market faster than ever before. Cost considerations will always be critical so a major focus on efficiency will also be vital.

This new era of digital inclusion in Africa will require next generation digital BSS to become reality. African operators will need the flexibility to trial new services, across all technology generations, to react to customer needs and demands. New digital BSS exists as adjunct systems that can be plugged into legacy systems to support and monetise specific services at significantly reduced cost. These systems are based on open APIs and are both microservices-based and developed using DevOps approaches. This ensures they can react to and keep pace with current opportunities, while helping African operators to cope with the demands of 3G and 4G services, and to cost effectively prepare for the arrival of 5G.

For more information on business topics in Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.

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May 28, 2021

Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work

Kate Birch
4 min
As a new report reveals most office workers are crushed by repetitive tasks, we talk the value of automation with UiPath’s MD of Northern Europe, Gavin Mee

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.

  1. 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
  2. Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
  3. Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
  4. 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
  5. 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.”


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