19 June 2017

Uganda: Business Is Being Disrupted - Are We Ready to Cope?

opinion

This year's annual gathering of innovators, social entrepreneurs, young and emerging leaders, and key decision makers in the private and public sectors in East Africa is taking place next month (July 7) at the NBS/LeO Africa Economic Forum at the Kampala Serena hotel.

The vision of this forum captures the aspirations of individuals who pioneered it in the region - mainly as a non-partisan independent platform for sharing of ideas critical for the economic transformation of the East African region.

The theme for this year is "The Impact of Disruptive Innovations on Growth and Development in Africa".

Innovation is the new buzz word in business and with it comes a disruption that will leave many behind if we are not prepared. For us in the broadcasting world, it has manifested itself through digital and social media which has seen many of us adapt to the changing times and technology.

This has shrunk the market and has disrupted the way traditional media used to do business. We have had to innovate and learn to do more with less.

With less money, less human resources and less equipment, we are stretching everything to its maximum limit. Where in the past we had outdoor broadcasting vans to gather news and cover live events, we now have smart technology and equipment that allows for a single individual to do more or less what used to require close to 15 people.

As it goes, this type of disruption has been good for industries across the world and we must embrace it as we strive to develop and grow our businesses in a challenging and fast changing world.

Globally, we have seen innovations like the transportation mobile app Uber and the mobile communications app WhatsApp, which have led to disruption in their respective industries.

Reduced costs for these services mean that the traditional ways of moving by taxis and communicating by phone have forced existing businesses in these industries to innovate and find new ways of attracting customers and compete more favorably.

They are now required to take advantage of the trends, technologies and innovations available today in order to stay in business. Make no mistake; every business will be disrupted, including politics. Some businesses will close.

Looking at today's emerging markets made up of mostly the youth, the young ones are tech-savvy and eager to adapt. And the internet is playing a big role in this. As of July 1, 2017, Uganda is going to see internet rates drop, which will lead to even more businesses being disrupted and nowhere more is this being engineered than in the agricultural sector.

As Uganda's leading sector, agriculture is poised to be the growth driver for our economy, with government providing subsidies in form of e-vouchers to facilitate payments to suppliers for fertilizers, seeds and the like.

We need a mindset change to have more tech-savvy young professionals engaged in agriculture - those who can use and take advantage of technology to grow their businesses.

There must be a combined effort of policy makers, government officials and educated Ugandans who are prepared to prosper in an increasingly-changing world.

In the East African region, we see Kenya leading the way with their own version of the Uber app, the widely successful mobile money app M-Pesa and the recently introduced MPost which is an innovative product that enables any mobile phone user to use his/her phone to receive letters.

It allows you to make your mobile number become a formal postal address.

These alone have made it necessary for the existing businesses in Kenya to innovate and diversify before they are driven out of business. During this year's NBS/LeO Africa Economic Forum, we intend to tackle a wide range of topics in the daylong conference ranging from current trends, opportunities and the future of innovations in our market place.

The forum will be broadcast live and I encourage all innovators, entrepreneurs and emerging leaders to attend and connect with colleagues in the region.

The author is the chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters.

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