Developing Skills and Innovation can Drive Digital Transformation in Africa

To make an impact you need skills and an environment to drive innovation for the creation of commercial value, which can then lead to economic growth.

This is the view of Cathy Smith, managing director of SAP Africa.

She spoke to Fin24 on the side lines of the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa, which took place in Cape Town. For Smith WEF Africa is a good forum for the sharing of ideas.

“Skills development is critical for SAP in the process of creating digital transformation in Africa. Africa Code Week is one way we try to enhance this,” she said.

“Code is an amazing thing. It creates a foundation of understanding about how to think in a logical way to solve problems. You have to apply your mind and listen. These are good skills, no matter what field you go into.”

Apart from skills development, she regards innovation as a very important aspect for the digital transformation of Africa. Turning innovative ideas into commercially viable enterprises is a very important part of the process for her.

“Start-ups might have an idea but getting finance could be a challenge. Therefore, we have helped to launch a free start-up guide for Cape Town and Johannesburg. Next year we plan to launch similar guides for Accra, Nairobi, Lagos and Kigali,” she said. “It is all about creating access to information.”

She said the 4th Industrial Revolution has many facets. It offers the opportunity for Africa to fast track by using Ai, machine learning and drones to create healthier economic growth and drive financial inclusion.

Cost can be an initial challenge in this process as well as actual access to the technology.

“It is about data. Africa does not have that much data, so it offers an opportunity to take control of our destiny. For Africa 4IR is an opportunity for us to drive our own innovation,” she said.

“Entrepreneurship is risky so one has to be resilient. It is about creating sustainability and not about instant gratification.

In her view public private partnerships could play a key role in accelerating the digital transformation in Africa, which in turn can lead to economic growth.

“Investment by both the government and private sector is needed to overcome the cost aspect. Then, the more the technology is used, the cheaper the costs can become,” she said.

This article first appeared on Fin24.