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Technology Advancement Must Top CEO Agendas In Africa

Tawanda Karombo

Technology usage and forward planning for IT changes and advancements have become key focus areas for African companies to the extent that those lagging behind may as well be planning to fail, say top executives as firms and governments across the continent rope in Artificial Intelligence, internet of things, cloud computing and other technological platforms.

Further disruption is now expected across multi sectors ranging from financial services, telecom, and logistics to fashion and retail. Africa has also seen a mushrooming of various tech start-ups that are bringing further disruption and traditional companies have been urged to adapt to the emerging tech trends or risk going out of business.

Andrew Darfoor, the group chief executive officer of JSE listed and diversified finance and insurance company, Alexander Forbes, says technology usage and forward planning must be on the top agendas of every African chief executive officer. Alexander Forbes also has operations in African countries such as Zimbabwe and Botswana among others.

“Technology must be on the top five of every CEO in Africa. If it’s not, I will question what you are doing,” Darfoor said during a recent interview in Harare.

He said Alexander Forbes was introducing new technological platforms for its operations in South Africa and in its emerging markets that include Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where it has just acquired an actuarial company. 

The company announced in 2017 that it will invest about R1 billion into bumping up its technological platforms. This is expected to entrench its foray into adopting technological platforms for its operations. The company views blockchain technology as worthy investigating.

South Africa recently concluded a trial of blockchain usage in completing financial transactions in the banking sector while the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has moved to tax crypto investments in the country. This is in stark contrast to Zimbabwe’s central bank which is trying to shut down crypto operations.

Technological advancements have been so rapid that executives elsewhere in Africa now realize that they have to embrace them. The telecoms industry has had to embrace over the top services and telcos in key African markets now derive a growing portion of revenue from bundled offerings for platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.

Douglas Mboweni, the chief executive officer of Zimbabwe’s Econet has also said that if companies and executives “can’t go digital they have to go home” as technological advances require that operational platforms be frequently upgraded.

“Technology is so critical. Demographics show that there are a lot of young people in Zim who like to engage on mobiles. If as a business you cannot create a platform to engage with your customers through technology frankly you are out of business,” Darfoor emphasized.

As executives and company strategists across start to realize the importance of roping in new tech platforms, banks across the continent have also started to switch to social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger to engage their clients. This is because people across Africa are spending more and more time online and on social media platforms.

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