The last 20 years have witnessed a sky-diving boost in business, courtesy of the deployment of technology to business methods and processes. Perhaps, this technology-birthed advantage has raised more millionaires and billionaires (for Africa) in the last two decades than in previous years.
To remind the world that some businesses have only existed for 10 years, and, have, already, broken even; expanded, and technically eyeing the stock market to become listed companies, speaks volumes. How technology has been a key instrument in this cannot be overemphasized and, hence, calls for a dedicated study.
As a sidebar, we have also seen how — since this increasing embrace of technology in Africa — more businesses (that wouldn’t have existed) have surfaced as an indirect nudge from Africans daring to explore the tech space that has (for a long time) been dominated by the West.
The indirect strides
Today, we have produced (among others) established professional bloggers, programmers and animators of African origin engaging the world and leading the development of solution-driven products.
One noteworthy thing that happens (most times) is seeing this crop of innovators build flourishing businesses around their skills. And, in some cases, go on to invest in portfolios outside their niche.
How much is tech serving Africa?
In Nigeria, for instance, aside from population advantage, technology has been able to simplify complex situations, hasten up processes and facilitated improved service delivery at different strata of the business value chain. The introduction of the Automated Teller Machine (for example) has not only changed the banking experience, but it has also made cash more available with easy access in local and remote areas.
Technology in the eyes of business experts
The deployment of technology in business, to some business leaders, is a growing necessity. In fact, this necessity has turned technology and business into noticeable 21st-century twins. And, we have gotten to a point where they can no longer be separated.
How this is so is given to the fact that creativity and innovation give rise to business opportunities. And, going by this, technology, no doubt, has been a footstool to innovation.
A simple way to comprehend this is a mental attempt to divorce technology from business operations in today’s world. Imagine what happens to businesses within a second, let alone sustaining such divorce for hours, days, weeks or months. If there is any better way to face off life on earth or make it miserable, breaking the existing marriage between business and technology is the way to go.
Imagine banks without mobile banking options and customers (at every point of need of a financial service) are required to visit the bank. Already, despite, the deployment of technology to services, some banks are still struggling in the mess of heavily crowded banking halls. The Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) is a leading example.
Technology at the heart of the business
Aside from obvious pointers, showing how technology has been providing a faster, more convenient, and more efficient way of performing business transactions; let’s briefly consider other plausible roles being played by technology in business.
Thanks to some of these efforts, doing business (right from the comfort of one’s room) has been made possible. Africans can go to sleep while their business revenues keep swelling. And, most importantly, clients and customers are no longer limited to a local region. The whole world, through technology, can be anyone’s customer in so far their needs are met and negotiations are considerable.
What has tech brought to the African table?
Focusing on our area of discussing (Tech, Business, Africa And Nigeria), we will run through a list of offers placed before business by technology while illustrating how these offers have been harnessed by business players across Africa with Nigeria as a case study.
By way of enumeration, the common tech methods driving this revolution as manifested in businesses, include (but not limited to) digital marketing, cloud computing, machine learning, robotics, internet of things, block-chain and Artificial intelligence.
Enhanced customer-company interaction
It is true that the way customers now relate to business officers have witnessed dramatic changes over the years. What a phone call cannot do, an email might just do the magic. We have had more business correspondence than any time in the past with the utility provided by SMS, voice calls, emails, social media chats and video conferencing.
In Nigeria, more businesses are migrating to the cloud by way of increasing their chances of getting discovered. In this light, customers find them easily and can shoot an email or make public posts tagging social media handles of these businesses for prompt engagement.
We have had several instances where issues were swiftly responded to on account of a tweet from a grieving customer on the leading social media platform, Twitter. Banks, airline operatives, retail stores among others have been put on their toes to deliver on their business mandates.
Companies (such as financial institutions, transport companies, and logistics service firms) with mobile apps get user-complaints via periodically appraising reviews from points of app-downloads like the Google Play Store. This has indeed contributed immensely to how customers relate with business managers. And aside from this, communication between co-workers and business departments has equally improved.
The world has proven that there is more to be achieved with technology-driven by science. The art of problem-solving has been raised a par above what it once used to be. In the current dispensation, codes can be written to solve real-life challenges, robots can be built to take over human positions and a host of other things.
In 2018, the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) automated registration processes after considering the challenges involved in doing the same manually. The CAC did not only notice a jump in the number of registered companies and business names within a short period of time, but they also discovered administrative matters (such as registration and bookkeeping) can be a lot easier with the appreciation of technology. The motto Nigerians have come to adopt is the more automated, the better.
Improved business education and access to mentorship
Knowledge transfer, today, is a lot easier to facilitate and cheaper to access than old times. In this era of video tutorials and webinars, more business owners have been mentored and more business ideas have been worked upon by collaborating with more experienced personnel from across the globe.
SMEs owners can now take courses online and receive real-time feedback to guide them through their business development stages. A good example is what the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) that shares space with the Lagos Business School (LBS) is doing with the #Road2Growth initiative sponsored by Cherie Blaire Foundation and ExxonMobil, where business classes are facilitated online to add up to physical sessions.
With a notable count of these such initiatives; more entrepreneurs have been trained online on fundamentals of building a successful brand and business. Coursera, Udemy, TEF training, YALI online courses are but a few to credit for this boost in business education that has contributed to business success in Africa.
Drawing the curtain…
Of course, technology, like most of the other things, has its peculiar downsides. With the upsurge in cybercrime, the world is not entirely safe. More responsibility is on anyone who uses tech to ensure precautions are carefully minded and security against vices are invested in.
As the business world keeps benefiting from the integration of tech in its operations; Africa is poised to exponentially expand its net worth in the coming years, with Nigeria at an advantage end given its high volume of both human and capital resources.
Hence, it becomes customary that the Nigerian government invests in infrastructures that will improve the quality of technology and its appreciation.