Financial PlanningTechnology

SA businesses need to better participate in the digital economy

By: David Morobe, Executive General Manager: Impact Investment at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS)

Digital is no longer just part of the economy – it is the economy. With over 30 million South Africans active online, mostly on their mobile phones, an increasing number of customers are demanding products and services via the ease of technology.

As such, to succeed in the digital economy, it is imperative that local businesses participate or forgo a huge segment of the market. This is according to David Morobe, Executive General Manager: Impact Investment at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) – one of Africa’s leading business loan and equity providers – who notes that digital technologies are rapidly transforming both business practices and societies. “These digital technologies are therefore key to the innovation-driven economies of the future.”

Africa’s most thriving digital economies can be found in cities like Kigali and Nairobi while South Africa’s data costs – the highest on the continent – are currently a huge prohibitor for local businesses to participate and succeed digitally. However, renewed promise from South Africa’s government at the state of the nation address (SONA) to decrease the cost of data, could make successful participation in the local digital economy more accessible for business owners soon.

“Having a strong digital presence and being able to actively engage in real-time is required of every business to be truly competitive. This means that every business must be proactively in tune with the changing landscape of devices and application usage. The good news is that every business has the potential to maximise its digital adoption journey,” says Morobe.

“On the communication infrastructure front, government needs to make good on their promise to bring the cost of data down to much more equitable levels, as quickly as possible. If this can happen, together with more investment in wider fibre reach, access to the digital economy will improve, offering limitless opportunities to those businesses who are able to adapt.”

The adoption of technology, according to Morobe, can help streamline and improve your business in the following ways: increase turnover; reduce operating costs; improve turnaround times; grow capacity and scalability; and keep the company relevant among its competitors.

“Digital technologies can enable businesses to improve their internal processes, better engage with their customers and build stronger relationships. Adding to this, business decisions can be made faster and more accurately by relying on data, algorithms, and embracing the reality of artificial intelligence, robotics, and other advanced technologies,” he explains.

To better adapt to the digital economy, Morobe urges business owners to be tech-savvy and hire staff that are well aware of the digital world. “Consider new roles in the company relating to emerging digital areas, such as a web manager, social media specialist, or digital marketer to assist with building the business’s online presence.

“And if you haven’t already, consider e-commerce for your business, which essentially provides unlimited market presence – something that is important to have, as the online world never sleeps,” he adds.

Overall, ongoing technological adoption should remain one of the top goals of any South African business, says Morobe. “As data becomes increasingly more affordable and the demand for online services continues to rise, local businesses need to be prepared to not only participate, but thrive in the digital economy,” he concludes.

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