Africa: Survey Looks At the State of Transition to Digital Playbook By MNOs in Africa and Middle East - Lack of Clear Roadmaps and Progress

London — A survey of MNOs in Africa and the Middle East (which includes North Africa) carried out by Upstream Technologies - although a self-interested party as a vendor - sheds an interesting light on the distance between the rhetoric about digital transformation and the actual implementation of digital playbooks in the MNOs. Russell Southwood runs the number and looks at how fast things are happening on the continent.

82% of companies talked to said that Covid-19 would "significantly expedite our digital transformation journey. However only 27% had developed a business case or roadmap for a digital strategy. Just over half (55%) had created a change management strategy but as the results below show progress made is not yet decisive.

Neither were the different elements of that strategy in place yet. Only 27% had developed a data security/protection strategy for the company and its users and only 27% had created a data management strategy. Only 36% had shifted from physical to digital sales channels and less than half (45%) had increased the digital sales offerings (products/services sold digitally).

Survey respondents were asked to what extent they expected their company's investment in digital sales solutions to increase: 64% said by 10-12%, 18% by 10%, 9% it would remain the same and a further 9% were unclear or not sure.

The table below shows the different ways that the benefits of digital transformation are understood:

What are the top 3 benefits of transforming your organization into a digital business? See table.

So here's the friction that's holding back digital transformation perfectly expressed. The biggest benefits are seen as reducing costs and improving customer experience. Obviously there are many ways in which automation improves costs but a key one is self-servicing. According to the GSMA, around 50% of subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa had a smartphone at the end of 2019. But the ownership of said "shiny object" and actual changes in behaviour are much slower. Last year one of the continent's major operators issued a trumpeting announcement about self-service. Would it talk about? No, it would not. Everybody talks when the numbers are good but stays silent when they are not.

The table below is really the "money shot": the Sub-Saharan MNOs will almost certainly be in the lower tier of these responses:

Well dear reader, I can hear you saying that this digital 'thingy' has not been round for very long and 'this is Africa'. Yes, yes but these are some of your highest value customers who actually have money to spend. Maybe cutting costs is always tougher in African MNOs than finding new revenues? If African MNOs simply shuffle into the digital future, they will always find it hard to make the transition.

In Brief

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