How Technology Adoption in Africa is shifting amid COVID-19

Weyinmi Egbe Alliance & Channel Leader Technology & Cloud Systems, Africa.

By Weyinmi Egbe

The new normal in Africa is expected to re-direct the priorities of governments and business. For consumers across the continent, priorities are also shifting. Before Covid-19, customers could easily walk into a store to touch, engage and experience a product, where many are now relying on online reviews and comparisons to verify their purchasing decisions. Where possible, many businesses have invested in infrastructure to facilitate remote working for their staff. We believe that over the next two years there will be a considerable shift in behaviour across business and consumer segments underpinned by the following four trends:

Critical advancements to the Healthcare system

Upgrading health care facilities in Africa will receive more focus now than ever before. Countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya have shown rapid and pro-active ad-hoc responses to health situations, however, contact tracing has been the major issue when it comes to managing patients’ pre and post treatments. This has exposed the need for a more optimised Identity Management Systems and the development of a citizen database to account for all citizens in the country in a timely and efficient manner. Over the next two years, we can expect that government will prioritise identity management and optimised database management systems.

Faster adoption towards Digital Transformation and Automation

Remote working has become the new normal. Digital transformation (DX) is an important strategy to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, a survey by International Data Corporation (IDC) across Sub-Saharan Africa suggests that 57% of organisations in the region are accelerating existing DX efforts. Digitally transformed enterprises are doing exceptionally well during these tough times. IDC’s forecast for 2018 showed about 17% of all enterprises being digitally transformed, and by 2023 about 52%. Now a lot of CIOs say that they’ve accelerated their digital transformation programs significantly. The catchphrase is: ‘we feel like we are living in 2025. Everything we had planned for 2024 or 2025 is happening now’.

No one anticipated how much we will be compelled to rely heavily on digital engagements. Clearly organisations will now be compelled to truly consider digital transformation not as a buzz word, but for business continuity.

The increased demand for digital assistants (chatbots) to drive customer engagements

Financial institutions in Africa were the first to fully embrace digital assistants for customer care services and banking services. With this adoption we have seen an increase among our partners to deliver the same services to African governments as an automated way in which the government can quickly interact with citizens, answer FAQ’s and keep citizens informed 24/7. This is expected to become even more popular as a standard way for citizen engagement.

While the more complex communication challenges will still need to be tackled by humans, a digital assistant may offer relief in some areas. For example, organisations may need to automate responses to most basic queries so human minds can be freed up to deal with more complex challenges. Enterprises and organisations may also need to enable more processes and transactions online and offer them in an easy-to-use medium – one that is easily accessible and intuitive. 

Meanwhile, organisations are having to reconfigure how they engage with their customers, contractors, and employees – and in the case of public sector organisations and educational institutions, citizens and students, respectively. These various touchpoints include providing real-time, reliable information on health and safety guidelines; offering assistance in setting up a remote working environment; communicating up-to-date changes in policies; and enabling online self-service functions or access to relevant insights, information, and processes from within the organisation’s systems.

Increase in ‘e- commerce everything’

A post-COVID retail market will require new approaches to engaging customers and satisfying their demands with efficiency and elegance. Retailers need the transparency and flexibility to shift with the needs of their customers and business – whether those interactions are happening online, in-store or in the spaces in-between, such as buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS).

As people spend more time at home, online shopping channels have become a preference for household and grocery shopping. ‘E-commerce everything’ will drive a new form of retail engagement across the continent; encouraging retailers to relook their supply chain, their offerings, and their engagements with customers.  Retailers are going to have to explore the modern solutions on offer to them to enable optimisation of the online ordering process, of forecasting and planning assortment. We can expect a shift in culture for more services to go online and stay online post COVID-19.

 Weyinmi Egbe is the Alliance & Channel Leader Technology & Cloud Systems, Africa at Oracle.