Growing digital lifestyle and technology uptake across the African continent will require corporations to have new business models that create value for consumers at the same time have valuable revenue streams, industry experts say.
Speaking at the ongoing Transform Africa 2015 forum, players in the ICT sector said for corporations and start-ups to make the most of the technology uptake, the new operating models will require provision of unique digital content, exceptional customer experience and superior digitised platforms.
The second edition of Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, which closes today, has attracted more than 2,500 delegates from more than 80 countries and 80 firms to deliberate on how to advance a more digital Africa.
To develop the new effective business models, the corporations and startups have been advised to first invest in understanding their markets.
Michel Bezy, the associate director at Carnegie Mellon University Rwanda, said start-ups and corporations require understanding a society, its problems and practices in order to pursue the underlying opportunities.
Bezy added that solutions and developments presented by the start-ups should be able to tackle day-to-day concerns of communities.
Among the corporations cited as having studied the market well enough and tailored their intervention accordingly is credit loaning solution by SMS Media, which enables mobile subscribers of various telecommunication firms to acquire airtime on credit basis and repay it on the next top up.
The concept, developed by local firm SMS Nation, has now spread to about 24 African countries as well as part of Asia and Latin America.
The solution is currently used by more than 127 million mobile subscribers.
The future success of the corporations will also depend on the uptake of various technologies, the experts noted.
Binbrek Shyma, the head of strategy and business evolution at Tigo-Rwanda, said telecom companies are pushing for lower and cheaper smart phones across the entire continent to further increase the number of people experiencing digital lifestyles.
Smart devices, smart solutions
Shyma said more smart devices across the continent will facilitate the introduction of more solutions and interventions.
It is estimated that before the next decade, about 70 per cent of Africa will be connected to smart devices, that Shyma said will present a massive opportunity for innovation.
Beyond the rollout and accessibility of smart devices, Shyma advised that the new business models should be created within the clients’ framework and customised to various markets.
She added that it is time telecom firms, including Tigo-Rwanda, considered ways they can encourage entrepreneurship at the same time maintain profits in order to partner closely with emerging developers.
Jeff Gasana, the co-founder of SMS Nation, however, said as businesses pursue the emerging opportunities, it will be important for regulators to step in to ensure that the revenue share between telecom firms and content developers is fair.
Gasana cited instances where the business models developed saw telecom companies receive more than 70 per cent of revenue share while content developers received less.
Among other areas said to have the biggest opportunity is mobile financial services as the continent moves towards a cashless economy.
Peter Heuman, the deputy head of Business Unit Support Solutions at Ericsson, said solutions around mobile financial services would fall well in line with most governments’ goals of having a cashless economy in place.
Heuman said the progress of corporations and firms would also greatly depend on their ability to closely work with governments to develop solutions and provide services.
Today being the last day of the forum, several heads of state from the continent are expected to address delegates to chart a way to further implement the Smart Africa Manifesto for Africa’s digital transformation.