Ethiopian businesses should use digital tech to ride the GDP growth wave

With a decade of consistently high GDP growth – powered by booming manufacturing, agriculture and construction industries – Ethiopia is one of the most vibrant markets in Africa. It is positioned to be one of East Africa’s major digital players as Ethiopian businesses begin to harness digital technologies to boost their competitiveness, agility and productivity.

That’s according to Nikki Summers, Regional Director for Sage in East Africa, who was speaking on the sidelines of the first ICT Expo Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, taking place from 28 June to 2 July this year. Summers says that the event highlights the central role that IT could play in the growth and diversification of Ethiopia’s economy in the years to come.

Says Summers: “With expected GDP growth of over 7% for the year, Ethiopia is one of Africa’s star economic performers. To keep up with the pace of change and growth, businesses will need to improve productivity and embrace innovation. Companies in Ethiopia can leapfrog legacy technologies and modernise their businesses with cloud and mobile technologies. The right technologies can support them in this goal by automating business processes and giving them better visibility into business performance.”

Over the past 10 years, technology has become simpler and more affordable for African businesses of all sizes, adds Summers. Today, Small & Medium-sized Businesses can buy business software such as accounting and payroll solutions as an affordable cloud-based service. Once the software is in place, management and the workforce can access it on a mobile device from anywhere they have access to the Internet.

Less time on red tape

Summers says that automating business processes with modern digital solutions means that companies can spend less time on red-tape and paperwork, and more on growing their businesses. “Many Ethiopian companies are still using legacy business software or even manual processes,” she adds. “That means they don’t have real-time insight into transactions and performance, and that they spend hours doing work that can be easily automated.” 

By implementing modern business solutions, organisations can comply more easily with tax and labour laws, increase efficiencies, and gain more control over their business processes, says Summers. They will be able to reduce human errors that creep into manual processes, tighten financial controls and gain access to the reports and information they need for better planning, forecasting and budgeting.

A modern business system is also a platform for more efficient ways of working. Employees 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.

Digital Ethiopia

The cloud has huge potential for businesses, giving them access to modern applications and opening the way for them to do more transactions via mobile and electronic commerce. It also enables them to reduce software and server costs automation and gives them more flexibility in managing their businesses. Only 12% of Ethiopians have access to the Internet, but penetration continues to rise. The ICT Expo Ethiopia gives us hope that the country is moving towards a more digital economy.

“We already have a strong presence in East Africa through our office in Kenya, and we see Ethiopia as an exciting territory for our business,” says Summers. “Though there is much work to be done in improving Internet penetration, Ethiopia has the potential to be a major digital player in the fast-rising East African economic region.”

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