Report: 70 pc of African SMEs invested in tech in one year

TANZANIA: ABOUT 70 per cent of Africa’s Small and Medium-sized Enterprises invested in technology in the past 12 months to boost growth and resilience.

According to the findings of a new report, titled ‘Levelling the SME Playing Field’, jointly launched by Vodacom Group, Vodafone Group and Safaricom, the statistics indicate that SMEs are embracing the positive impact of technology.

“This report explores the specific challenges SMEs face in Africa and unpacks what needs to be done to help these entrepreneurs overcome these obstacles.

Our findings highlight the significant role of technology in helping small businesses tap into new opportunities, access finance, increase productivity, reduce costs and enhance their competitiveness,” said Vodacom Group Chief Executive Officer Shameel Joosub.

He said there are numerous opportunities that unlock the full potential of digitalisation for these businesses and the continent, which means addressing barriers, such as infrastructure, connectivity, and the high cost of implementing technology and developing best practice frameworks for better collaboration.

The report is the sixth research paper under the ‘Africa. Connected campaign’ which aims to drive sustainable development by closing the digital divides in Africa’s key economic sectors through strategic partnerships.

According to the report, the adoption of technology by Africa’s SMEs presents unique challenges.

For example, going beyond inadequate infrastructure and access to connectivity, the findings reveal the greatest difficulty for SMEs is the high cost of technology upgrades and renewals (58,3 per cent), which can prevent small businesses from keeping up with the latest technological advancements.

Almost 32 per cent of SMEs are also concerned about a lack of digital skills and knowledge to take full advantage of technology solutions.

In addition, the research points to regulatory and compliance issues as stumbling blocks in SMEs’ efforts to digitalise.

The research is based on conversations with 400 SMEs across eight African countries including Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lesotho ranging in size from one to 200 employees.

The report states in Africa, digitalisation has been a game-changer for SMEs, with the respondents highlighting the positive effect of technology in enhancing growth, efficiency, competitiveness and customer service.

Furthermore, by using e-commerce platforms, social media, and digital payment solutions, such as M-Pesa, SMEs can expand their reach, access valuable data insights, and streamline operations.

To help drive technology adoption among the continent’s SMEs, the report outlines the importance of sharing best practices, to enable better decision-making and cost-effectiveness.

From a knowledge-sharing perspective, these standards foster a learning culture by helping to identify gaps in understanding and making it easier to implement innovative ideas, while also providing an internal knowledge base and reducing the loss of know-how.

Furthermore, adopting proven practices and technologies is faster and safer than testing new ones.

On his part, Vodacom Tanzania Business Director Mr Arjun Dhillon said, “Through digital solutions and tools, we partner with entrepreneurs and small business owners, providing them with information and tools that maximise their efficiency therefore unlocking their full potential,”

Through guidance, advice, and best practices, the company enhances SMEs’ digital readiness, utilising cloud technology, the Internet of Things and big data advancements to develop digital solutions that empower enterprise customers to establish connected supply chains.

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