Africa: how technology disrupts a continent for the better

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The challenges that have faced Africa have fired innovation. Digital disruption is having an enormous impact on business and society in a continent that once was the epitome of the digital divide.

Digital transformation might be the latest buzz word, but in Africa can you see the power it has to ignite economic potential, alter customer expectations – and quite literally change lives.

Rapid technological change in the continent and its recent IT history means that it is not tied down by legacy technologies. This has enabled it to leapfrog many more developed global economies and sprint to the front of the digital race. Africa is a massive and diverse continent.  It has already been identified as the country set to become “the next China” by analyst firm Frost and Sullivan. It has one of the highest mobile penetrations in the world, so it is therefore no surprise it is being seen as the next potential enabler of continuous economic growth.   

Digital technology is making swift inroads into the continent. Only around 20 percent of Africa is online currently, but this number is growing fast as new networks are set up and the cost of digital devices falls. By 2025, Frost and Sullivan forecasts that 600 million people and four-billion devices will be connected to the internet in Africa. Africa’s digital economy is predicted to hit $315 billion by the same year, accounting for 7 percent of its gross domestic product. This will create dynamic change in e-commerce and the customer experience.

Changing lives

The digital revolution is driving services in Africa that are helping to change people’s daily lives for the better and open up exciting new opportunities, especially in furthering the rights and interests of women.

Apps are already addressing women education and family health issues. Gifted Mom, for example, works with non-profit organizations in Africa to provide women in isolated regions with essential information on pregnancy and childbirth. The Safe Delivery app, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is also leveraging the ubiquity of mobile phones, providing animated instructions for birthing attendants dealing with birthing complications.

Despite the digital gender inequality gap, women are breaking down barriers to solve real life problems and experiencing independence and financial freedom. According to Yasmin Belo-Osagie, co-founder of She Leads Africa, a community for young women looking to start businesses, Africa now has the highest rate of female entrepreneurship in the world. Women are increasingly attending coding clubs and creating apps for everything from book exchanges to flagging up land that is legitimately for sale, to avoid con artists.  

This is great news for the continent. Digital talent is a huge competitive advantage in today’s globalized economy and the more skilled people that Africa can bring on board, the faster its digital evolution.

Digital markets

Important developments in e-commerce and banking are bringing new experiences to its people, whilst at the same time shortening the purchase process and delivering better customer satisfaction.

Africa has become a global leader in mobile money. The World Bank estimates that over 34 percent of Africans over the age of 15 now have some sort of financial account. In the first quarter of this year, Orange Money banking services reached 30 million customers. But expanding services still further and making them easier is key to financial inclusion for many Africans. This will mean providing customer service that closes the gap between the mobile user and the bank by engaging consumers and strengthening customer relationships. It also means being able to support the entire customer journey via mobile, if required.

With deepening internet penetration, online retail is also about to take off. This is inspiring innovative e-commerce initiative Jumia, formerly the Africa Internet Group, for example, dubbed the “Amazon.com of Africa”. It encompasses an e-commerce platform and a host of online services including e-commerce, property, care, hotel booking, food delivery and ride-hailing services. Orange has invested in the company as part of its strategy to take a leading role in the continent’s fast growing e-commerce market, alongside its ambition to develop digital channels and reinvent customer service.

Culture of trust

Customer service is something we have become accustomed to. Customer service is the foundation of digital trust. But in emerging digital markets like Africa, companies have to be prepared to go that extra distance to nurture and create relationships. They need to understand the support users will need and the best way of providing it.

With more options coming online for African consumers in every sector, the businesses that can differentiate themselves through customer service excellence will be the ones that build and retain a loyal following.

Discover the four fundamentals of successful digital business transformation here.  Find out more on why Orange has the right assets and physical presence to deliver connectivity and innovative IT across the African continent here.

Isabelle Lurquin
Isabelle Lurquin has over 20 years’ experience in the telecommunications B2B market in key accounts and sales management, indirect sales, business development and marketing. Her career in International Telecommunication, includes management  positions at France Cable & Radio (satellite business), Transpac (data & voice networks, messaging and contact centers), Global One and Orange Business Services. 
 
Isabelle has been working for Orange Business Services Emerging Markets & Indirect region since September 2011. This region includes the geographies of Middle East, Turkey and Africa, as well as the indirect business with SITA, the Orange Business Services’ channel to the Air Transport Industry. Today, Isabelle leads the Sales, Marketing & Communication and the Solutions functions which includes pre-sales, business development and  consulting. 
 
Prior to 2011, Isabelle spent 6 years in the Orange Large Accounts Division as Director of International Business Development. Her team supported 80 of the largest Orange multinational clients in their efforts with worldwide expansion and drove the Division’s international revenue growth. During the course of her international career, Isabelle has gained a specific knowledge of Asian and European markets and, since 2011, of the Middle East and Africa markets.
 
A French national, Isabelle holds master degrees in International Politics (International Politics Institute, Paris) and International Business Management from La Sorbonne University, Paris and speaks French, English and Spanish.
 
Isabelle likes to be involved in philanthropic activities such as coaching  underprivileged young students and helping young professionals to come onboard in the business world.  She has also been involved in humanitarians programs in Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin.