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SA businesses embrace AI to enhance revenue

By , Regional Director for Tata Consultancy Services, South Africa.
03 Jul 2024
Langa Dube, Country Head and Executive Director, Tata Consultancy Services South Africa.
Langa Dube, Country Head and Executive Director, Tata Consultancy Services South Africa.

In recent times, few technological advancements have gripped the public imagination like artificial intelligence (AI). As this technology becomes more commonplace, it presents an opportunity for South African businesses to rethink their operations to enhance existing revenue streams – or even create new ones.

The TCS AI for Business Global Study, a comprehensive report on the state of AI adoption and its impact, shows that 69% of businesses are more focused on using AI to spur innovation and increase revenue, than on productivity improvement and cost optimisation.

Globally, a staggering 86% of top business leaders worldwide are already using AI to boost their bottom line. While on home soil, emerging technologies are proving their worth, with an associated positive impact of 1.4%on business profit margins.

According to the study, South Africa is taking steps to become an AI leader on the continent. More and more businesses, across various sectors, are recognising the technology’s potential to:

  • Boost productivity and efficiency by optimising supply chains, leading to better inventory management and reduced costs.
  • Enhance customer experience by leveraging AI to analyse customer data and offer targeted recommendations, leading to increased customer satisfaction.
  • Drive decision-making through data, to predict equipment failures, preventive maintenance or optimise marketing campaigns.
  • Offer personalised solutions to customer and industry problems.

While there’s a rising interest in AI, there are challenges in widespread adoption, such as limited access to skilled talent, high upfront costs of implementing AI solutions, and concerns about data privacy and security.

For instance, AI has the potential to vastly improve government service delivery, from fraud detection to resource management. While businesses are expected to leverage AI for increased efficiency, innovation, and a competitive edge.

"South Africa is on the cusp of an AI revolution, with both businesses and government recognising its potential," says Langa Dube, TCS Country Manager for South Africa. "When harnessed responsibly, AI has the power to unlock unprecedented value for businesses and customers alike. By combining AI's computational power with human ingenuity, South African businesses can unlock new levels of innovation and efficiency."

Cautious optimism and bridging the skills gap

The mood among business leaders is cautiously optimistic. While 57% are excited about AI's potential, there's a clear understanding that the road to AI-driven transformation will not be without its bumps.

The future of work isn't about humans versus machines, but rather humans and machines working in tandem. By embracing this partnership, businesses can unlock new levels of productivity and innovation, driven by the irreplaceable power of the human mind.

But to achieve this, 45% of business leaders predict that almost half their workforce will need to be proficient in generative AI within the next three years. This underscores the urgent need for upskilling to equip South African workers with the expertise needed to thrive in an AI-powered future.

Measuring impact

The research reveals that businesses are grappling with how to measure the success of their AI implementations. In fact, 72% admit that they lack the right metrics, indicating a need for new benchmarks to track AI's impact on business outcomes.

At the same time, the South African government is developing a National AI Plan to guide responsible AI adoption across the country. This plan aims to boost research and development in AI, develop a regulatory framework for ethical AI use, and invest in AI skills development programmes.

A closer look at the TCS AI for Business Global Study

The TCS AI for Business Global Study is one of the largest surveys of its kind, reaching nearly 1 300 CEOs and other senior executives with P&L responsibilities, across 12 industries and 24 countries. Other key results from the report include:

  • Executives believe the impact of AI will be greater than or equal to that of the internet (54%) and smartphones (59%).
  • Corporate functions with the most completed AI projects: Finance/comptroller (completion rate of 29%); HR (completion rate of 28%); Marketing (completion rate of 28%).
  • 40% of executives say that they have a lot of changes to make to their business before they can take full advantage of AI.
  • Over half (55%) said they were actively making changes right now to their business or operating models, or to their products and services, due to the potential benefits and risks of AI.
  • 93% of executives surveyed in the United Kingdom and Ireland said they have AI projects aimed at growing revenue. Executives in other regions are equally enthusiastic, with 89% in North America, 88% in APAC, 83% in Continental Europe, and 80% in Latin America.
  • Nearly two-thirds of BFSI (64%) and manufacturing (63%) industry executives surveyed say they are excited or optimistic about the impact of AI on businesses.

The AI revolution is here, and South African businesses have a unique opportunity to leverage this transformative technology to drive growth, innovation, and competitiveness on the global stage.

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