Top tech trends to look out for in Africa
Co-Founder and Director of Quicket, James Hedley takes a look at the four most exciting tech trends to look out for in Africa.
Exponential investment in Africa
In November, Nigerian-based payment ventures received a $360 million investment, making it the ‘unofficial African capital for fintech investment and digital finance startups’ according to TechCrunch. It was also reported that the continent’s fintech investment quadrupled to $357 million in 2018, with sub-Saharan Africa being the area with the most expected growth.
So, what does this mean for South Africa? We can expect even more investment after being listed as one of the top three African countries with the highest amount of investment next to Kenya and Nigeria. The Southern African Venture Capital Association also announced that venture capital funding grew 31% to over R1.5-billion in 2018, up from R1.1-billion in 2017. Leading the charge with sizeable investments this year include on-demand cleaning service SweepSouth and business funding company Lulalend.
The continued rise of mobile money
Since 2011, the value of mobile transactions has grown over 890%, with sub-Saharan Africa leading the way as the world’s largest region responsible for moving money on mobile phones - a total of 45,6% of the activity in the world. The industry has grown exponentially and there are no signs of the market decreasing in value.
Mobile money has proven an effective tool for feature phone users who have not yet migrated to the smartphone movement, and USSD codes have become one of the technologies that have enhanced the transaction experience for millions.
Associated rise of the mobile money powered ecosystem
Hundred of millions of upwardly mobile consumers linked to a cost-effective mobile and easy-to-use payment system will create vast opportunities for all sorts of business models. One only has to look to China to get a feel for the vast range of possibilities this could enable, like the incredible success WeChat has seen with their payment options. In a recent report, they stated that over 84% of adults using their payment options now felt comfortable not carrying cash.
Reducing data costs
Recently, mobile giants Vodacom and MTN were ordered by the Competition Commission of South Africa to slash their data costs, despite introducing price reductions. The Commission released their long-awaited findings last week, and the network providers have two months to significantly reduce their data costs, making space for a wider audience to have not only access to the internet, but access for longer periods of time.
Although MTN has stated that they will be opposing the ruling, what we can still look forward to is a more inclusive audience who engage with online content, shopping, etc. Corporates, small businesses and even retailers may look for more ways to engage with their audiences in order to reel in new and maintain existing consumers through online engagement.
We have seen great strides in messaging apps over the last year, with many businesses using apps like Messenger and WhatsApp as extended forms of customer service. As a society, we have grown to demand immediacy from the brands that we choose to interact with, and we can expect much more from brands next year. With updates in chatbots, interactions will be even more nuanced, with ‘robots’ who are being programmed to deliver to us more effectively every day.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
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.”