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COVID-19 accelerating Africa’s digital transformation agenda

From a technology point of view, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses in Africa to fast-track digital transformation plans.

This is according to Mark Walker, associate VP for Sub-Saharan Africa at the IDC, who participated in a webinar recently hosted by SYSPRO Africa on the topic How digital is your business?

Mark Walker, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey.
Mark Walker, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey.

“We’ve heard stories across the board, from suppliers of communication technology as well as people involved in the industry on the user’s side, regarding where they were planning to be from a technology point of view (going forward) …. and everybody has brought their plans forward very quickly. On the supply side we’ve seen some of the big system integrators having to provision virtual private networks … the reality is that COVID-19 has sped up digital transformation by 5.3 years, according to IOT Now, which is quite interesting,” said Walker.

He added that in a South African and East African context, business managers are having to fast-track plans (including IOT, remote connectivity and work from home-type plans), that were originally scheduled for implementation in two-to-three years’ time, whilst other projects have been put on the back-burner or on hold.

“We need to focus on where the digital journey is going, where are you on it and how do you go forward effectively,” Walker said.

He emphasised that worldwide, the growth of GDP by country has accelerated quickly in terms of the work contribution of digitally transformed enterprises compared to their non-transformed counterparts.

The trend is ongoing and driven by key innovation accelerators in Africa, being securing, IOT and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which continues to impact and digitally enable significant industries including government, education, retail, healthcare and transport.

His presentation underlined several emerging issues linked to these industries including trusted data & citizen-friendly digital services, online & virtual education, as well as omni-channel ordering and multi-location fulfilment.

Sub-Saharan Africa

According to the IDC, 56% of CIOs of large organisations (employing more than one hundred people) are currently engaged in DX initiatives, 25% are about to start digital transformation in 2020 with 12% not currently engaged, but planning DX efforts (two-year timeframe).

Walker said while 8% are not currently engaged and have no plans for DX in the near future, COVID-19 and the need to strengthen customer service and enhance operations will likely change this scenario going forward.

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