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Opportunities for Mobile Enterprise Adoption in Africa

Africa has been described as a mobile first continent and is full steam ahead to have over one billion people connected to mobile phones by the year 2017. These numbers are huge and mean enterprises across the continent should rethink their strategies about how to leverage this ‘new computing’ system.

One of the biggest success stories with mobile enterprise is the innovations around banking. Today, most bankers can access their account information through their mobile phones. Some can withdraw and deposit cash through short codes.

Even though African citizens already know the power of mobile, most enterprises have not deployed process features on their mobile phones. However, individual employees are finding ways to use mobile apps to set out their activities. Simple solutions such as calendar and reminders are becoming common with professionals although these are being used in isolation.

In South Africa, the mobile enterprise is starting to take off; research company, IDC, is predicting a 10.5% year-on-year growth for mobility and enterprise software in 2014 to a total of U$518.45 million. “Today, organizations in every industry are using mobile apps to differentiate themselves and increase competitiveness,” Lindsay Britz the Marketing Manager of Magic Software South Africa, an enterprise solutions company, says.

“They are turning smart phones and tablets into work tools by using built-in scanners, positioning trackers, performance monitors, health monitors, HD video recorders and cameras to streamline business processes. Sales departments are using iPads to benefit from portable, interactive marketing materials.”

Magic Software has been able to automate businesses in Africa including, BKB Grain Company where they enabled management, producers and customers to remotely track stock movements, contracts, and financial information using mobile applications.

Mobilizing some of these processes enables flexibility and efficiency in large organizations. It means that even when employees are off site, they can still send relevant data to the office, as opposed to waiting to be in the office to feed data in.

“With consumers around the world now spending more time accessing the internet from mobile phones than from PCs, businesses recognize that mobile apps are an essential way to engage with their customers, employees and partners,” Britz contends.

“More than fun new tools for entertainment, mobile apps can and should be driving business. They provide new ways to speed and automate processes, to innovate, differentiate, and increase market share, satisfaction and loyalty.  As such, mobile business apps deserve a champion within the organization.”

Britz adds that companies now have to strengthen or employ a Chief Mobility Officer (CMOO) who will ensure that the applications that are used within organizations will improve efficiency and have great impact on ROI (return on investments).

“Therefore, in addition to a deep knowledge of mobile technology, a CMOO needs to understand how mobile apps can streamline business processes and increase customer engagement to show the value and ROI mobile apps bring to the organization.  By translating mobile apps into financial benefits and working across business units, the CMOO function becomes an income generator and cost saver as opposed to a cost center,” she continues.

Pockets of Africa are now implementing such strategies by using the power of the mobile phone.  Access.mobile, a company in Uganda, is already deploying ERP software through mobile phones for smaller companies and organizations in the country. It has made several mobility projects in health and in agriculture.

“The business came out of my belief that there were not many technology enterprises in East Africa serving the needs of SMEs in a manner that was value-creating, holistic and scalable (in country and regionally). access.mobile, since its inception, has been investing in building technologies that help SMEs become electronic in their business process at points where they believe there is significant value,” Founder and CEO, Kaakpema ‘KP’ Yelpaala told ITNews Africa in an interview.

Yelpaala has seen businesses profit from streamlining their processes and enabling businesses and organizations to make sense of data.

“Through our local user engagement model, we use [a] hands-on approach to support users in adopting new technologies while generating feedback and insights to inform our product life cycle so that we are constantly improving our solutions for our clients and users,” Yelpaala said.

The company received a grant from Microsoft4Afrika, an initiative by Microsoft to connect Africans to the internet and improve technology in business.

However, with sensitive company data, the issue of security usually comes to the forefront of the enterprise’s concerns. And increasingly with adoption of this technology, insecurities need to be dealt with within all the applications.

“There are many different tools that can be used to help ensure secure enterprise mobility at the device, app and data levels. Each has its own benefits and areas to consider. For example, while basic Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions include policy management for devices, corporate data and content or applications, only some high-end solutions also include security mechanisms like data encryption, user authentication, malware protection or security regulation compliancy,” says Britz.

There are numerous predefined business applications but companies need to evaluate their needs and problems to be solved before applying a solution. Unfortunately many companies shy away from employing such solutions because they fear the cost.

Africa is aggressively turning to technology as part of its development. This has already simplified the lives of people in Africa especially through financial inclusion. Now it’s inevitable that other services will begin to ride on the power of the mobile.

 

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene

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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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