Africa is undoubtedly a land of abundance and potential. From our mineral resources to our rich agriculture to our youthful population, there are opportunities abound for us to boost our competitive advantage. Add to this mix the power of cutting-edge technology, and there is potential for thriving economies across the continent. However, while technology adoption in Africa is progressing in some instances, it is lagging in others. This means African businesses are not leveraging the full power of what is available to them. Why is that?
We have seen throughout the pandemic how technology aids businesses in the new normal, empowered by remote technology, automation and smart, connected industrial technology. Despite this, there are still those who are sceptical of technology for a number of reasons ranging from the perceived steep capital investment to the learning curve of adopting new systems.
Specifically in Africa, there are still perceptions that advances in automation and technology will replace the need for people. For a continent in which most countries continue to work towards increasing their GDP, and create employment opportunities, the threat of redundancy is understandable. However, I do not believe it should legitimately hold businesses back from innovation. All this does is hold back their ability to compete globally.
The crux of the matter is that the efficiency and business continuity offered by technology adoption is key to achieving a competitive edge in today’s global business landscape. We can either oppose technology development and be left behind, or start skilling our young agile population to facilitate a smooth technology adoption process. In my opinion, this process must be driven by five key principles:
1. Inclusive digital transformation
The process needs to be inclusive of the people of Africa. Rather than being threatened by new technology, our people must be a part of the transformation. Employee buy-in is key. Equally important is a dedicated skills development programme so that our human assets are seen as increasingly valuable, rather than replaceable or optional. A digital strategy formed with the input of your people is key for a successful move to the connected enterprise.
2. Innovation which aligns to strategy
It is important to note that innovation for ‘innovation’s sake’ must be avoided. African businesses must think carefully about what to implement, and why, or they risk investing in systems they don’t need – possibly decreasing their capital with no gain to their productivity. A poor outcome may also discourage other businesses from investing in digital transformation.
3. Improving the wheel, not reinventing it
Technology adoption must be aligned to your existing business model. The idea is not to bring in technology to create all-new processes and operating models, but rather to augment and supplement existing processes to improve output and optimize resources (including human resources). If you aren’t sure what your business needs to be doing, go back to the drawing board and find clarity before you start considering a big tech move.
4. Security front and centre
Many African businesses have been eager to embrace digital and mobile technology but at some point, on their road to the connected enterprise, the importance of cybersecurity seems to have been overlooked. As businesses increasingly move to the cloud and other tech in support of remote capabilities, cybersecurity systems must be prioritised to protect and improve business continuity.
5. Personal interactions remain key
In the melting pot of African culture, we love personal face-to-face interactions. While this has been tough amid the pandemic, there are still ways to form personal relationships between businesses that can give each other a boost. In October 2020, Rockwell Automation launched our business strategy for Africa, and we are currently engaging with local distributors and channel partners. Our strategy is to partner with local industries, local businesses and to employ local people to see wider technology adoption, aligned to the needs of the market.
Africa is growing - the only continent with the potential to have double-digit growth. However, we need to invest in key technology adoption in order to grow. Rockwell Automation looks forward to connecting and aligning with the different cultures, local requirements, and local businesses to see Africa gain the competitive edge.
Rockwell Automation looks forward to connecting and aligning with the local requirements and local businesses in its journey to make a difference and help African businesses to gain their competitive edge. We partner with our clients to implement the technology they need, informed by their business objectives. Visit our website for more information about our services and expertise here. Take the first step towards your competitive edge and contact Rockwell Automation: Michelle Junius.