West African businesses: Innovating for the future

By Matthew Kibby, Vice-President, Enterprise, Africa & Middle East at Sage

The rise of digital technology, globalisation and inequality all pose challenges for West African companies trying to keep pace with a rapidly evolving environment.

Companies in the region need to think about ways they can future-proof their businesses so that they can be ready for a wave of social, economic and technological change – especially as competition heats up.

Here are some components of a business strategy for companies that want to prepare for the future:

Go mobile

According to numbers from the Nigerian Communications Regulatory Commission, the country had around 95 million Internet users towards the end of 2017 - most of them on mobile connections. Ghana’s National Communications Authority reports that the country’s total mobile data subscriptions reached 22 million and a penetration rate of 78% by mid-2017. With such high mobile broadband penetration, it is important for West African brands to take a mobile-first approach to interacting with employees, customers and other stakeholders.

The right technologies can automate business processes across the mobile workforce and give them better visibility into business performance. Team members can use employee self-service to access information about benefits, payroll, leave and expenses; the sales team can issue quotes or get pricing information wherever they are; and managers can sign-off invoices or requisitions from a smartphone.

Understand what makes you different

As West African companies face more competition from global organisations as well as opportunities to expand into global markets, they must ask themselves what makes them different to the rest. They need to look at how their skills, products, and business model allow them to differentiate their businesses. What can the business do better than anyone else as it addresses customers’ needs – is about pricing, convenience, quality or innovation?  Finding that core value can help the organisation to thrive into the future.

Embrace change

To succeed in an era where the only constant is change and where the speed of change is accelerating, organisations must embrace a culture of innovation. They should be ready to experiment, be prepared to fail fast, and able to recover quickly from failure. The future will not belong to organisations with the biggest capital base or highest revenues, but to those who are most adaptable to change. Companies must strike the balance between innovating for the future and nurturing their existing revenue base.

To be change-ready, organisations need technology solutions that are agile, easy to manage, and fast to implement. Rigid systems will hold the business back. Next-generation technologies such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud are important enablers of innovation, offering enterprises the opportunity to create new revenue streams, increase productivity and transform their business models.

Give something back

A country where all people and communities thrive because they are living with economic stability and social equality is one where businesses can grow and prosper.  If local communities thrive, so do the organisations that surround them. Investing money back into the community is good business, in addition to being the right thing to do.

It helps attract the right calibre of employees, it creates goodwill with regulators and government, and it gives the company a purpose beyond profit. That’s why future-proof businesses are those that see giving something back as a critical part of their business strategy.

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