Innovation is borne out of necessity, opportunity, or both. And that has never been more true than during the pandemic and national lockdowns.
What I have seen in Africa and the Middle East over the past few months is that the measures taken to address COVID-19 have been a catalyst for digital transformation and innovation. Businesses have been forced to change their mindset and adapt – and to do so quickly. Across the region. there has been an explosion in the “app-based culture” as new digital services have appeared to respond to customer needs during the pandemic. In fact, a McKinsey survey of consumers in key African economies during the pandemic found more than 30% of people were increasing their use of online and mobile banking tools, for example.
The business culture of the Middle East and Africa, historically driven by face-to-face interaction, has also been forced to adapt to the situation. In early March the government in Kuwait shut down the whole country and gave all employees a two-week holiday, initially thinking the pandemic would quickly pass. Over time, it had to adapt like the rest of us, shifting from physical to virtual ways of working.
Pre-COVID, I would spend over half my time traveling for client meetings in those regions. Now, I’m reliant on Microsoft Teams and Zoom video calls which have quickly become the way of doing business and interacting with colleagues.
I have also seen many brilliant examples of innovation and digital transformation across these emerging markets during this time. In South Africa, for example, the government has switched many services to digital and online almost overnight and you can now get a passport in five days, where it previously took three months, as the government embraces a digital-first approach to citizen engagement.
There has also been a focus on “app-based” services transforming “tradition” services. One of these is CAFU, an app that allows you to get your car refueled at home, while in your driveway, without any human interaction, for the same price as the petrol station. Initially launched in the UAE in 2018, the service has seen a 75% increase in use during the lockdown. The convenience, safety, and time saved through the service were exactly what customers wanted.
In South Africa, the Zulzi grocery home delivery app launched in 2016 but has seen rapid growth of 200% per month during the lockdown, as people switched to online grocery shopping, creating 450 new jobs. The app allows customers to order anything from a range of major retailers, including Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Spar, Clicks, and Dis-Chem, for delivery in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, and Cape Town.
These examples – and many more – will have a long-lasting impact beyond this crisis. A switch has been flipped. There will be no post-pandemic reset where people and businesses will return to doing things the way they used to. What began through necessity is likely to take root and continue to grow.
The disruption of the pandemic has been a wake-up call for many businesses and will continue to force digital transformation to the top of the agenda.
Contact us to see how OpenText can help you navigate your digital transformation journey and prepare for the new reality.