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3 Things Africa Must Get Right If It Wants To Leapfrog Into The 4th Industrial Revolution

Dr Sharron McPherson, who lectures on the MCom in Development Finance at the UCT Graduate School of Business, is optimistic that the coming technological revolution can benefit Africa – but that education, government buy-in and targeted support of small to medium businesses will play a critical role in determining if the continent sinks or swims.

Dr Sharron McPherson

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“The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and Future Proofing are current buzz-phrases in business, but what we are really looking at is the emergence of an entirely new economy,” says Dr Sharron McPherson, who, as co-founder and executive director of the Centre for Disruptive Technologies, “has over 1 000 disruptive techies around the globe on speed dial.”

Disruptive technology, that which is significantly changing the way business operates – a literal game changer – is seen as the spearhead of 4IR and it has people scrabbling for skills that will future-proof their careers and keep them ahead of the game. It’s a topic McPherson tackled, along with the impact of technology on finance, at Finance Indaba Africa, which took place on 3 and 4 October at the Sandton Convention Centre.

“We have to look at technological acceleration and the need to upskill youth as part of a whole,” says McPherson, who has studied the market in depth on behalf of governments and corporations using a substantial team. “Change is happening so fast it is hard for any one person to be an expert.”

McPherson comes as close as anyone to the role of expert in this fast-changing field. A lecturer on the MCom in Development Finance at the UCT Graduate School of Business, she argues that a new economic paradigm is emerging, and it is not driven solely by technology, but by global pressures such as climate change – with its very real implications for food, water and energy security – booming populations and the knock-on demands on land and resources, and rising terrorism, populism and nationalism as systems get stressed and people start saying “us first”.

“What differentiates 4IR from former revolutions is the quantum of change and the convergence of global factors of a magnitude quite unprecedented in human history. It is sobering, and yet I am encouraged by the time I spend with young people and those who are investing in future generations and the future of work,” says McPherson.

Related: A Perfect Storm: Business, Creativity And The 4th Industrial Revolution

Born in the US, McPherson came to South Africa in the mid-90s armed with a doctorate degree in law from Columbia University, New York, to serve as a volunteer in the offices of legendary Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs in Johannesburg. She also has an honours degree in finance from the University of Toulon, France, and a BA Economics from the College of William & Mary.

“I was divorced, a single mom to a six year old, and I volunteered for two years,” she says. “I’d been working on Wall Street on mortgage-backed securitisations and I saw the light! In the mid-90s South Africa was the most exciting place on earth – the youngest constitutional democracy. I got bit by the African bug. It gets into your blood and makes it difficult to leave,” she says with a laugh.

Passionate about the continent, McPherson believes in the power of education to shift the future and wants all young people to have access to a high-quality STEM education (science, technology, engineering and maths) to ready them for 4IR.

“This is an opportunity that needs to be recognised,” she says. “Africa is uniquely positioned to leapfrog into 4IR, but we need make changes so that we can realise that promise. We have a choice to invest in the education of 200 million young Africans – it is a position of promise or peril.”

Unfortunately, as things stand, South Africa is “way down” on the list of the countries that are getting STEM education right. In an effort to democratise access to a STEM education, the Centre for Disruptive Technologies has invested a lot into the development of an artificial intelligence teaching platform that will have intuitive sensitivities when it comes to learner abilities.

But as important as investing in education is, it will not be enough to prepare youth for a world where many will not be able to get a job and will need to create their own work opportunities. The second issue that needs attention therefore, believes McPherson, is entrepreneurship and creating the right start-up ecosystem.

“We need to revisit ideas around enterprise development and how to get it right.”

One of the traps South Africa has created for itself is to bundle micro businesses with small and medium enterprises but these businesses often have vastly different needs – and prospects.

“By pooling these businesses with micro businesses you are limiting results. Small and medium businesses are the real drivers of growth and need to be specifically catered for, with defined objectives around their needs, driven strategies and allocated resources to make sure their potential is maximised. Start-ups and SME are also not the same. We need to understand and appreciated these differences if we want to develop the right ecosystems.”

This brings McPherson to her final point, the essential need for government to assume its role as a key stakeholder. “Everything we have done at the Centre for Disruptive Technologies we have done in collaboration with the private sector because we simply haven’t been able to get traction from government. To really prepare for 4IR we need meaningful private / public partnerships and African solutions,” she says.

Working with such macro challenges is all in day’s work for McPherson, who is also a keen runner, getting up between four and five most mornings to run. She also meditates – “taking time to reconnect with my values and helping me to not sweat the small stuff” – hikes, and speaks seven languages.

“I am a chronic over-achiever,” she says with a laugh. But she deems her highest achievement her daughter’s respect for her work in education and empowering women. “It is really lovely if your kid thinks that what you are doing is hot. That for me is good. I am so encouraged by the young folk who are so tech savvy, take a lot more risk than our generation and have a different compass. Their true north has a much stronger social conscience.

“It gives me hope for the future.”

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Set Up Your SME For Success With Fibre

Boost your business potential when you plug into fibre. It offers unprecedented benefits, taking your business to the next level of connectivity.

Ignite

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More South Africans are turning to fibre for fast Internet access. We’re witnessing a boom in fibre expansion and as a result, it’s becoming a more affordable option for SMEs. Once businesses connect to fibre, they can access a reliable, ultra high-speed connection that unlocks the full advantage of cloud-based processing.

Cater to usage demands

A slow Internet connection can derail your business. It’s imperative for business owners to prepare their networks to handle additional usage requirements. Failing to do this might lead to interruptions, slowdowns and a potential impact on your bottom line. An Internet connection should be a tool that supports innovation and uninterrupted productivity.

Shift to the cloud

More businesses are accessing cloud-hosted information via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools and other platforms. In 2018, nine out of 10 companies in South Africa said they had increased spending on cloud computing, according to a report by World Wide Worx and F5 Networks. Running your day-to-day business on the cloud requires you to have a more powerful Internet connection.

Support video and VoIP

Some businesses make use of video capabilities for training and meetings, and VoIP for sales and marketing. On a fibre line, businesses can ensure they meet these demands without putting a strain on the network. With fibre, business owners can run voice and Internet data on the same line but may look at installing a second data connection for redundancy.

Get what you pay for

There’s no denying it, fibre provides exceptional speeds and offers a brilliant price-to-performance ratio. You won’t receive the same contention ratio as other connection mediums – you will get what you pay for. Bandwidth caps are less of an issue with fibre because there’s a choice of affordable uncapped deals on offer.

Make the right choice

  • Before you decide on your fibre deal, ask the right questions, understand exactly what you’re paying for and match your business requirements with the right amount of bandwidth.
  • Choose a provider that allows you to manage growth for the long term – one that allows you to choose your deal, scale when necessary and not throttle your fibre line.
  • You’ll also want an ISP to have your back further down the line. Insist on obtaining a comprehensive list of services along with the monthly fee. Ensure you are provided with a full service including all necessary support and equipment to deliver optimal fibre performance.

Ignite’s drive and purpose is to be the spark that inspires SMEs, which is why the Ignite Fibre service is structured to put you in control. Ignite offers you tailored packages that take into account your daily Internet and business startup needs.

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(Video) TomTom Telematics – Let’s Drive Business (UK)

TomTom Telematics

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WEBFLEET provides you with the right information at the right time to make smart decisions and achieve your goals: Lowering cost, reducing time on the road, supporting drivers and delighting customers. Running a business can be hard. So let’s make it easier. Request a demo and find out more at telematics.tomtom.com/webfleet/landingpages/launching-the-new-webfleet.

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How Sasfin Bank Is Beyond A Banking Platform – The Evolution Of B\\YOND

From opening a business bank account in one day to advanced business analytics at the touch of a button, B\\YOND is asking business owners what they need most from a banking platform — and delivering on it.

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Vital Stats

Imagine you pay millions each month in rebates. The thousands of transactions are batched and go out on the first of each month. What happens if a few are incorrect and the entire batch is rejected and needs to be recaptured?

For one business owner, the entire process meant that he always needed to be available at the beginning of the month and customers were often paid late, creating a reputational risk for his business and limiting his opportunity to grow his portfolio with existing clients.

It was a huge pain point that many entrepreneurs share, and one Sasfin’s online banking platform, B\\YOND was determined to fix. “We asked real business owners to tell us what the banking issues were that they either hated the most, or that affected their businesses the most,” says Rodger Dunn, Head of Transactional Banking at Sasfin.

“This is just one problem we’ve solved, and since joining our platform, that same entrepreneur can now work remotely, knowing that his rebates will be paid on time, even if a few transactions need to be fixed.”

The Evolution of B\\YOND

What do business owners need most? What are their pain points and what tools will help them make money, save money and be more efficient? How can we deliver these solutions in a simple-to-use, intuitive way?

These are the questions that Sasfin’s B\\YOND team sat down to answer when they began working on their new online banking platform. In addition to offering business owners a platform where they can transact online, they wanted to build a strategic business tool that solved real everyday problems for entrepreneurs.

“We launched in March this year with a platform that offered much more than the normal functionality of online banking,” says Rodger.

“Through B\\YOND, our customers are able to apply for a business bank account online; perform their own payroll management; create and send personalised quotes and invoices directly from the platform; manage revenue and expenses; and connect their Sasfin Bank transactional data with Xero, the fastest growing Cloud-based accounting software provider in the world.”

For B\\YOND users, this was just the beginning. “Customers already on the platform will find additional functionality being added regularly,” explains Rodger.

“We have a vision, but we are also listening to our customers. Within the core team are two business owners who bring key insights to the product, but we also have a closed group of businesses that regularly test new functionality.”

B\\YOND’s key competitive advantage is how the entire platform integrates traditionally disparate functionality into one portal. “Everybody offers an accounting package, transactional banking, a credit card and so on,” says Rodger. “However, B\\YOND’s platform integration and how we make everything work together is our advantage, because that’s how we save customers the most precious commodity: Time.

“Let’s use Xero as an example. Instead of manually populating payments, with Xero you get secure, direct daily feed integration from your Sasfin bank account into your accounting software.”

Related: Sasfin Is Gearing Your Company For Growth

Removing banking barriers

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“B\\YOND’s Cloud platform enables us to take any manual process and make it digital. The benefits of this are endless, but we started at the beginning of a banking journey and worked our way up from there,” says Rodger.

“If you want to open a business bank account, you generally need to meet with your banker or stand in a long queue at a branch. If there’s more than one shareholder or director in the business, multiple parties need to be at that meeting. Once the bank has laid out its value proposition and you agree to go ahead, you then have documentation to fill in, which everyone needs to sign.

“As a result, setting up a business banking account can take up to a few weeks with multiple in-person engagements. We saw an opportunity to change that by creating a seamless, online process. If you have everything you need, you can have a business bank account up and running on the same day that you begin your application.”

How has Sasfin managed to fundamentally change this time-consuming and paper-based process? “We’ve taken something that’s serial in nature and split it into parallel processes,” explains Rodger.

“Our objective is to remove as much of the friction and barriers of opening a business bank account as possible. We’re a technology-based business, but we’re also high-touch. Technology should be an enabler, it shouldn’t take the place of people or complicate processes. We understand that business owners don’t only want to deal with a platform. They want consultants who understand their business and needs.”

Thinking out the box

As an alternative bank, Sasfin has looked for ways to make business banking more efficient and supportive of entrepreneurial needs, while lowering the costs for clients.

One way this has been achieved is through a branch-less and ATM-less environment. Sasfin customers can draw money for one flat fee from any ATM across the country.

“You’re paying for usage, instead of an entire infrastructure you hardly ever use,” says Rodger.

B\\YOND plays a key role in this value proposition. “Instead of migrating businesses onto different platforms as they grow and evolve, we’ve kept things simple. More people and money generally means more controls. As businesses grow and more people need access to the banking platform, the system becomes complicated and more expensive. Those platforms were designed for large corporates, not growing entrepreneurial businesses.

“We have reduced the costs and complexities that corporate-focused platforms often come with. Our platform allows you to bank in a manner that supports your particular type of business, for example the platform caters for one or many users in a business with view access that aligns to the person’s role in the business.”

Another key functionality that B\\YOND has added is client classifications. Everything can be tagged and categorised. At the click of a button a full recon can be pulled, showing what was spent. All recons can be done directly from B\\YOND’s banking platform.

Related: Raising Capital In A Worsening Macro-Economic Environment

Looking to the future

There is a lot still to come. “We are building one single platform that you can run your entire financial management through.

“Our three-year goal is for B\\YOND to be a business analytics tool that entrepreneurs can access through their Internet banking platform,” explains Rodger.

Bank outside the box

The Sasfin Transactional Banking Business Account is designed for SMEs that want to focus on what they’re most passionate about — their business — while their banking platform sweats the small stuff, but also helps manage and grow their business.

  1. Do you spend unnecessary time on banking?
  2. Does your bank pay you market-leading interest rates?
  3. Does your bank give you easy cash management in real-time?
  4. Would you like to manage your payroll and invoicing from your bank account?
  5. Does your bank help you keep track of your cash flow, manage your admin, and provide tools to help run your business successfully?

Sign up today and have access to a whole new world of better banking for your business.

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