Africa’s digital economy opportunities

Posted on November 23, 2016 12:04 am

Digital economy is simply defined as economy that is built on digital computing technologies.Every calendar seems like an accelerated version of the previous one when it comes to digital economy. Each year people think they have reached the peak and then following year comes, paling everything before it.Will 2017 be the same? Every sign suggests so. People might be worried about a potential political and economic challenges, but this will not stop new ideas, business models, or new opportunities from emerging.Doing the same thing over and over again will never take you to new places.In 2017, I think Africa will see more and more organisations focus on revenue resilience and look for new markets and opportunities. This will require oppositional thinking, looking for radically different ways of running business, for instance: paying customers rather than charging them. As witnessed this year in South Africa and Kenya, environmental sensing will continue to be part of many organisations that have a goal of becoming aware and understanding the potential impact of new trends on their organisations.Newly emerging business models will only get stronger in 2017 in my view.For example the gig economy will continue and will go well beyond house rentals and transportation. Africans will see several players provide means for individuals to offer their products and services in an easier way. And the next dominant player will likely come from Nigeria or South Africa, markets that have remained largely untapped.In 2017, me think we will see a rise in proactive organisations business, that is, organisations that are able to offer products and services the moment the need for them arises often even before the customer realises there is a need. Africa will see a couple of commercial examples of predictive delivery. And after the easy ones are demonstrated and customers get used to it, other often unexpected, players will follow and among others Africa will see the first truly proactive governments. All of it thanks to progress in digital identity.

I do feel that digital identities in Africa will enable not only new organisational behaviour, but also facilitate evolution of other technologies. Digital personal assistants will continue to evolve but have an opinion that they will not only be able to tell you where the music you want to buy is available on the internet or remind you about a fiancee’s appointment.They will not be able to pay bills on behalf of Africans, or help switch energy providers or truly support Africans at work, like a real assistant.But personal digital assistant business will continue to thrive.Incumbents in asset-intensive industries will be challenged by technology advances even more than in previous years. There is a technology being piloted in East Africa which will enable communities to go off the sewage and water grids.Telecommunication providers will see more and more pressure from meta providers. The cord cutting movement affecting cable TV will spread to other industries.There is no question that existing technologies will mature and be used in critical situations. Entities such as government agencies, emergency responders and disaster management will access social media platforms to gather intelligence.Africans will retain control of their digital self and at the same time be able to share their digital capital whenever it may be helpful. This digital mindset will also be applied by organisations, looking for options to digitise idle assets using new technologies.In countries like Nigeria and South Africa, more and more individuals are finding it easy to join the maker culture where platforms are allowing more people to rapidly prototype hardware solutions. As a result, Africa will see examples of Internet of Things applications that are finally compelling and useful to individuals.Africa’s digital communities will become the new unfair advantage in every industry and those who live in Africa need to identify and invest in their communities.African societies will continue to learn how to deal with digital economy trends.They will move from digital literacy through digital behaviour to digital elegance. Africa will also see growing interest in cybersecurity, despite numerous governments trying to discourage citizens from using data encryption tools.

Contador Harrison