[Column] Charting a new course for Africa’s economic prosperity

Imagine a world where the laws of business survival are being redefined and new competitive market models re-assembled with the advent of 4th industrial revolution. Emerging technologies are changing the way organisations shape their offerings and service new markets. They are the muses of innovation and inspiration and the keys to unlocking the potential of business in Africa. It is time to build economic models that change industries and reshape the way we live, work and play.

The continent is evaluating what industry 4.0 means to its citizens and businesses – Organisations are beginning to rethink industrial architectures and how to optimally harness technology choices. “We need to look at how we can demystify questions around industry 4.0 and make it easier for companies to understand the scope, their roles, promise of new business models, and what it means for Africa’s future,” says Fuad Siddiqui, Senior Partner for Strategy and New Markets Consulting, Bell Labs, Nokia. “There is enormous potential, especially with regards to automation and how it can re-define productivity, but we need governments to be swift and create incentive structures that encourage investment and innovation.”

One of the challenges, particularly in the telecommunications industry, is that most companies has pre-dominantly focused on consumer play and is comfortable with a tried and tested business model. They look at their consumers in a certain way and adopt models that are simple in structure and deliver the same results. The problem is that consumers are wading in a saturated market, accessing offers from a smorgasbord of suppliers and taking the ones with lowest cost, that deliver the best value for their needs. There is little or no loyalty and minimal financial returns. The industry is fighting in the mud for a small piece of the profit pie, while technology is opening up new channels and platforms that offer far greater reach and opportunity across new segments.

“There is so much more that the telecommunications industry can do, especially with 5G and emerging technologies,” says Fuad. “For the first time, the power of 5G offers the potential for service providers to branch out and invest into new markets — industrials, verticals and enterprises in a big way. We know industries are at varying stages of their digital journey, and all industry sectors will be massively transformed by the ability to become automated and to exist independent of physical space and infrastructure — essentially to become virtualized.  New drivers around performance, reliability, trust will dictate new stringent service requirements and new market models will be needed to achieve economic growth. Within this new realm of possibilities, a future of intricate alliances and collaboration of global-local market players will emerge, with global players excelling at the art of service creation and local players owning the sphere of contextual service delivery. This techno-economic collaboration will be made possible by a digital network fabric enabled by 5G, driving the creation of a new industrial world order characterized by enterprises with global reach and the ability to scale with worldwide demand, but which leverage and required local context for service delivery – something telco service providers can own, control and monetize.”

“Imagine a telco investing in 5G network without a bold vision to diversify beyond consumer or isn’t proactively engaged with industrial sector (shipping, mining, transport, manufacturing, supply chain…) and offer them symbiotic partnerships, showcasing what 5G can do?” asks Fuad. “It will most certainly be depriving Africa of economic productivity and prosperity.

From a global standpoint, we see many industrial sectors moving forward with proprietary networks that partially deliver on new innovations to drive productivity and profits and telecommunication companies are beginning to realize this shift and drawing up their own plans to advise and shape the next chapter for growth. Or else they will risk losing out on a significant opportunity.”

As industry and organisations earmark big budgets for automation and intelligent systems, telecommunication service providers should be part of the discussions and the solutions and see how a general-purpose technology like 5G can catalyse growth? The industry needs to evangelise the promise of future technology and showcase what benefits it brings. “Now is the time to prepare a cohesive plan and sign up industrials and verticals,” concludes Fuad. The ask is to – understand how emerging technologies will change commercial models, assess new investment potential and what it can do across sectors to uplift Africa’s macro-economic status.

This column was submitted by Fuad Siddiqui,  the Senior Partner and Head of Consulting at Nokia Bell Labs for MEA & APJ. Want to be featured on TechTrendsKE?  send us your column/sponsored post to letters@techtrendske.coke

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