Technology and business leaders met at the SAP Innovation Day in Johannesburg to discuss how businesses can shift away from stagnation and ignite a new wave of innovation and growth to drive their success.

Speaking at the event, Hans-Peter Fuelle, Chief Business Officer for EMEA, SAP, said businesses today operate in an environment characterised by volatility and uncertainty, with unpredictability exerting significant pressure on revenue, profit margins and supply chains.

Hype for AI’s transformative potential

Interest in artificial intelligence (AI) is at an all-time high. The global AI market is expected to grow from $184-billion in 2024 to $826-billion by 2030.

In her opening remarks, SAP Southern Africa Managing Director, Kholiwe Makhohliso commented: “The vital question for African enterprises is: how can we transition from merely keeping the lights on to building a competitive edge, despite economic headwinds? The answer: by investing in continuous innovation that leverages technologies such as AI and cloud, organisations can drive sustainable business growth, optimise and connect end-to-end processes, leverage data for valuable insights, and stay ahead of competitors.”

Makhohliso says the excitement for AI among African enterprises stems from its potential transformative impact on all industries. “Business AI is gaining traction throughout the continent thanks to a growing list of practical applications that help companies solve challenges, accelerate innovation and drive greater efficiency. With the support of a vibrant ecosystem of expert partners and the growing maturity of cloud and business AI solutions, African enterprises can then supercharge their innovation efforts like never before.”

Innovation key to survival & success

According to Bertrin Pekeur, SAP Business Group Lead at Accenture, the challenging global economy, inflationary pressures, and depressed revenues have put African enterprises under significant pressure. “As a result, enterprises are turning their focus to how technologies such as AI and cloud can help them overcome challenges and increase the rate of innovation. The rapid adoption of AI is creating unprecedented opportunities in digital literacy, the creation of new products, improvements to services and greater productivity. This is helping African organisations transform how they do business, how they interact with their employees, and how they engage with customers.”

Innovation has become essential to the survival of businesses as the accelerating impact of disruptive forces such as technology, climate change, geopolitical upheaval and economic headwinds lead to constrained growth and uncertainty. According to Accenture Technology Vision, 93% of executives agree that, with rapid technological advancements, it is more important than ever for organisation to innovate with purpose.

Thabiso Hlatshwayo, Senior Manager: Solution Consulting at OpenText Africa, added that innovation unlocks a world of possibilities for African enterprises and allows them to compete on the global stage. “Africa typically doesn’t have access to the same resources as more developed markets and often lags in its adoption of new technologies. Enter innovation, which levels the playing field. From agriculture to healthcare, technology-driven innovation is not only solving challenges unique to Africa, but delivering solutions that can be exported to the rest of the world.”

Cloud, clean core driving AI value

Makhohliso notes the vital role that digital transformation and cloud adoption plays to enable enterprises to unlock the full benefits of their AI investments. “Organisations that improve and automate their business processes in the cloud and achieve a clean core can more easily draw on a single source of truth for their business data. This enhances the value they generate from their business AI deployments by ensuring all AI outcomes are based on accurate, real-time business data from across the enterprise, enabling organisations to drive limitless innovation, efficiency and growth.”

She added that SAP customers have an edge over their peers in their AI efforts. “Companies that leverage SAP S/4HANA Cloud integrated with our Business Technology Platform have a strong foundation for AI-driven innovation. By following global best practices and drawing on the expertise and skills of our vibrant partner ecosystem, African enterprises can accelerate their AI-driven efficiency and automation gains while unlocking new capabilities that will support their success for years to come.”