Laptop ban in Europe could cost airline passengers $1 billion

There’s a lot on the line as the Trump administration considers expanding its laptop ban to include flights from Europe.

New security measures could result in major logistical disruptions at airports, and airlines might face reduced demand for lucrative tickets. Passengers could be hit by delayed flights and higher costs.

“We think that it could impose an additional cost of more than $1 billion on passengers,” Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association, said in a televised interview. “The Atlantic [route] is a big source of revenues and profits both for U.S. and European carriers. The impact could be significant.”

The annual $1.1 billion cost estimate from IATA includes the loss of productive time in the sky for business travelers and longer travel times.

European officials are scheduled to meet with their American counterparts on Wednesday to discuss aviation security, days after a potential expansion of the ban was first reported.

The U.S. introduced rules in March that require any electronic device larger than a smartphone to be carried in checked baggage on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa. (It cited intelligence suggesting terrorists could hide explosives in bigger devices.)

That means no laptops in the cabin — a major sticking point for business travelers.

Including Europe under the rules would be a dramatic expansion of the ban, and the aviation industry is concerned that additional resources would be needed to comply. Concerns have also been raised over the potential fire risk from storing large stocks of electronics in checked luggage.

On Tuesday, a US. official told CNN that various countries were “in a tizzy” over the issue.

Here’s why they’re worried: The route between Europe and the U.S. is the busiest international corridor in the world. More than 350 flights depart Europe for the U.S. each day, according to IATA.

If business travelers ditch flying in favor of Skype or conference calls, airlines could be forced to operate fewer flights.

Emirates — which was directly impacted by the original electronics ban — said last month it was cutting back on flights to the U.S. because of weak demand.

Expanding the ban to Europe would disproportionately affect U.S. airlines.

Delta Air Lines(DAL), United Airlines (UAL) and American Airlines (AAL) have the most to lose. British Airways would also suffer.

Combined, the four airlines account for nearly 60% of all nonstop flights from Europe to the U.S.

The broader U.S. tourism industry is also at risk.

The U.S. welcomes more than 14.5 million travelers from Europe each year — that’s 40% of all overseas visitors to America, according to research firm Euromonitor.

Most travelers from Europe are known to spend between $3,000 to $4,000 each time they visit the U.S., according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Visitors from Britain, Germany and France spend $31 billion each year on tourism and airfares to the U.S., according to the U.S. Travel Association. That’s 15% of all overseas tourism spending in the U.S.

By

Woman cleans a container in a river, Waija River , Accra Ghana

Technology can win the fight against illegal mining in Africa

In Ghana, “Galamsey” is currently a hot topic amongst media practitioners, policy makers and the general populace. “Galamsey” is a term used to describe small-scale illegal (gold) mining in Ghana whereas in South Africa its equivalent is known as “Zama Zama”.

The main determinant of small-scale illegal mining is the lack or absence of any of the following: land rights, mining license, exploration or mineral transportation permit, environmental clearance/permit or any other legislative mechanism that could guarantee legitimacy to the on-going operations.

Small-scale gold mining, illegal or not, can be operated on the surface or underground. It is a form of survival for about 10-20 million miners in 70 countries, including approximately 4 million women and children, most in Sub-Saharan Africa. The paradox is that, aside of being the world’s largest employer in gold mining and representing 90% of the gold mining workforce worldwide, small-scale gold mining produces 15% of the annual gold production. In Ghana¸ the total workforce in the industry is estimated to be more than 20,000, out of which 90% are Ghanaians.

This notwithstanding, the damages small-scale gold miners pose to the environment are innumerable – which make their operations a menace to both societal harmony and environmental sustainability. Further, small-scale (illegal) mining undermines investor confidence and seriously bothers on human rights issues such as child labor and worker safety.

According to Mercury Watch, small-scale gold mining is the single largest demand for mercury in the world. An estimated 1400 tons of mercury were used by Artisanal scale gold mining miners globally in 2011″. Meanwhile, mercury can contaminate the atmosphere and water at a very long distance. It is highly toxic, causing damage to the nervous system and mental stability of those exposed to it.

Regulations and other legislative instruments have failed to respond to the menace; but technology won’t. The gold mining chain is so sophisticated to the point it renders government regulations impotent.

The Gold Mining Chain

The sophisticated nature of the Gold Mining Chain will make it difficult to use policies and regulations alone as tools to fight the illegal destruction of the environment.
The sophisticated nature of the Gold Mining Chain will make it difficult to use policies and regulations alone as tools to fight the illegal destruction of the environment.

Technology won’t fail in the fight against the menace

In most cases, abandoned mine shafts are the easiest to access, making it difficult for law enforcement and mining companies to keep track of illegal gold mining operations.

  • Using Advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicles For Policing

Advanced unmanned aerial vehicles or drone technology can help in offering a different way of policing by accurately gathering data from above that can be used as a guide in the monitoring and tracking of mining sites. By integrating advanced real-time mapping software (using Google maps for instance), digital cameras, audio recording devices and automated flight programs, drones can generate up-to-date maps that capture “what’s happening now”. This technology can also be configured and applied in a manner that is able to capture “what happened before” on any mining sites; where possible the drones can be deployed with other geo-based technologies to detect in advance explorable gold mining sites. The data gathered by the aerial vehicles will be transmitted in real time to a central remote database, which will be accessible to law enforcement agencies.

The data generated by these technologies can also give officials a broad view of how gold mining operations are impacting the environment – and all that are connected to it. For instance, these technologies can offer insight into all the processes involved in gold mining: how material is moved and redeposited as spoil and waste among others.

Mapping drone technologies offer a more effective way of policing the environment and clamping down on illegal operations thanks to their superior intelligence.

  • Advanced Data Tracking Technology for Trucks, Excavators and other Mining Equipment

In Ghana for instance, significant deployment of heavy earthmoving equipment, plants and machines in the mining industry is primarily by the large-scale mines. Small-scale gold mining operations tend to be relatively unsophisticated and rely primarily on inexpensive equipment from Chinese manufacturers. Nevertheless, there is evidence of a growing deployment of heavy equipment by small-scale mines in their operations as evidenced by a news item that appeared in the State-owned Daily Graphic (Ghana) on 16 May 2014. The opening lines of the news item read “The Nungua Police Divisional Command has mounted a search for two men alleged to have stolen an excavator valued at 250,000 Euros and using it for illegal mining”.

Whilst earthmoving equipment is in demand for use in road construction, mining operations and in commercial as well as residential property development, gold mining makes up most of the industry. It is therefore important to subject the use of equipment such as bulldozers, tractors, excavators and dump trucks to efficient regulatory procedures and tracking mechanisms right from the Port. This is possible thanks to advanced Data Tracking Technologies. Data Tracking Technologies such as (Global Positioning Satellite system) are made up of hardware and software, which when used together determine the exact location of the vehicle/equipment, person and also other assets to which this system is installed and also record the exact position of the assets at regular intervals.

By regulation, industry operators will be required to install data tracking technologies to their equipment before they are deployed on the field. Failure to adhere to this requirement will automatically (by configuration of the technology) disable the equipment from any movement.

The data gathered by these technologies will be transferred to a remote central database only accessible to law enforcement agencies, just as in the case of the drones. The data will aid these agencies (for example the Inspectorate Division of the Minerals Commission, Ghana) in conducting mine inspections and compliance enforcement of the laws and regulations governing mineral operations.

Aside from offering a cheaper, more practical way to keep tabs on gold mining operations as well as other industrial operations that deploy heavy equipment, data tracking technologies and the ever-increasing range of software packages (such as video surveillance cameras) that accompany them can provide unique insights for effective policymaking.

The sophisticated nature of the Gold Mining Chain will make it difficult to use policies and regulations alone as tools to fight the illegal destruction of the environment. And whilst technology cannot ultimately be the answer, it can provide a great deal of the solutions.

By Isidore Kpotufe, CEO of Westcape

This report was commissioned by the Technology Intelligence Division of Westcape, a global online bank that makes access to financial as well as professional services cheaper. Westcape also trades in other technology powered-sectors such as global e-commerce, e-power technologies, business technologies among others (http://westcapestrategy.com/).   

 

How Technology is Decentralising Financial Services Globally

How Technology is Decentralising Financial Services Globally

By Zina Kumok, Investopedia

For several years, the finance industry has been witnessing a huge shakeup. New, fast-moving financial technology firms—rather than traditional banks and investment managers—are changing how people spend and save money. These upstarts have exposed older companies to revolutionary technology and a consumer-based focus that users are responding to in droves. And they have already changed how big companies manage and introduce products.

Executives surveyed in the 2017 World Fintech Report by technology consulting firm Capgemini said that non-traditional financial services firms provided a better customer service experience, were more convenient to use, and provided a better value for the money. These are just some of the ways that fintech has improved the landscape of finance—and possibly changed it forever.

Fintech’s Revolution

Less than a decade ago, mobile banking was limited to checking the total balance in one’s account. Nowadays, most major banks have their own mobile apps where customers can deposit checks, transfer funds and send money to friends and family. Chase Quickpay has become popular in the same way that Venmo and Facebook have made paying back friends easier than ever. Fintech has made managing finances simpler and more relatable to everyone. It has made financial freedom something that more people can attain.

For example, 20 years ago, a financial advisor was something only those with large investment portfolios could afford. Meg Bartlet, president of Flow Financial Planning, said this is one of the biggest changes to come about from the rise of fintech companies. “It used to be that financial planning, especially fee-only financial planning, was effectively available only to wealthy people,” Bartlet said. “A lot of costs were involved in providing tailored investment and financial planning services, and so the service was expensive.

The advent of robo-advisors has made it possible for anyone to start their own retirement account with tailor-made suggestions on where to store their money. Plus, robo-advisors typically charge lower fees than most traditional advisors and have smaller minimum requirements. Fintech companies also focus on attracting huge numbers of individual users while traditional companies tend to want larger companies as clients.

Programs such as Acorns have made investing something people can do as easily as swiping right on Tinder. Digit has capitalized on micro-saving and allowed people to save without setting up a savings account at a brick-and-mortar bank.

It’s no wonder that these startups are shaking up the finance world. More than 40% of executives from The Fintech World Report said that their company culture makes it difficult to change or be inventive. Another challenge for traditional firms is finding the money to pay for new ideas. Maybe being more upfront with fees charged to customers could help; CFA and CFP Mark Struthers of Sona Financial said many traditional financial firms make it hard to figure out their pricing structure while fintech companies are more transparent.

“Most fintech goes out of its way to tell you what you are getting, but not traditional financial companies,” Struthers said. “It’s because fintech has nothing to hide; traditional finance does.”

The Bottom Line

Research shows that fintech firms have changed the financial services climate, although some industry folks still claim that fintech firms are a passing fad. While the upstarts’ overall influence remains to be seen, consumers should expect more innovation and, perhaps, fewer traditional companies operating as they have been since their inception. Traditional firms that don’t want to be left behind technology-wise should consider adding more fintech programs to their offerings and increasing budgets for this realm. Executives with startup and tech experience will likely be prioritized over traditional candidates seeking employment at financial services firms—they’ll be seen as more capable of driving older enterprises into the new fintech landscape.

Source: Investopedia.com

MWeb Connect

South Africa: Internet Solutions Agrees to Buy MWeb Connect

Internet Solutions, a pan-African communications service provider, has announced that through its parent company, Dimension Data, it has entered an agreement to acquire the business of MWeb Connect for an undisclosed sum.

The transaction is subject to approval by the relevant competition authorities in SA and shareholders. If successful, the transaction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

The company will provide “an improved and streamlined customer sales experience, starting with a new-look MWeb home page which will launch at the end of March

“MWeb is one of South Africa’s largest consumer ISPs and this acquisition will immediately give Internet Solutions a presence in the large and rapidly growing consumer market,” says Internet Solutions Managing Director, Saki Missaikos.

“A truly digital world is dependent on quality connectivity. It is the building block upon which the promise of automated cars, ‘smart homes’, virtual offices, and Internet of things will achieve mass adoption. We believe that broadband has the power to reshape the world in which we live and work. It offers faster and more dynamic ways of doing business, and is playing a critical role in improving the provision of services for consumers across many sectors such education, health, transport, and social services to name a few,” Missaikos says.

Derek Hershaw, CEO of MWeb says: “For nearly 20 years MWeb has been connecting people and, like Internet Solutions, technology is at the core of our business. MWeb and Internet Solutions have been laying the foundations for a connected world for many years and we have a common vision of providing seamless connectivity for the consumer at home, on the move, in the office, and in public spaces.

We believe that the full potential of technological advancements will be realised by ensuring that everyone has access to quality, affordable, secure, and reliable connectivity.”

Source: Business Times Africa

DIGITAL BANKING

How Credit Unions Can Leverage Digital Banking To Propel Growth

People love digital services … because they are easy to use and delivers great customer experience. However, the pace of change expected of Credit Unions in the form of enterprise upgrade and level of sophistication in service delivery is unjustifiably lagging.

By Ellah Makuba

Since the introduction of the Credit Union concept in 1955 (cuaghana.com), the socio-economic role executed and the contribution to poverty alleviation especially in deprived and less-endowed communities has been immeasurable. Credit Unions have been the backbone of “nano-economies” in localities where traditional commercial banks have shied away in the past. The over 500 Credit Unions in Ghana have indeed tended well to the financial services need of low-income earners and the financially disadvantaged in society and the positive implications are bare-evident.

However, the pace of change expected of Credit Unions in the form of enterprise upgrade and level of sophistication in service delivery is unjustifiably lagging. Without a doubt, core challenges persist, and the quarters responsible for the needed growth and advancement of the sector are indeed taking unprecedented steps to reposition and situate Credit Unions in their rightful space. The not so long ago introduction of the Credit Union Legislative Instrument (L.I 2225) has in a contributory fashion set the tone for concerned actors to push for various growth agendas. And one of the trending and embraced areas of banking which Credit Unions have evidently failed to prioritize is digitization, automation, and the concept of Digital Banking.

According to the Ghanaian Times newspaper, “internet access has made it possible for people to stay at home to transact business online and online banking today, has emerged as a major channel to supplement face-to-face banking” (ghanaintimes.com.gh). Backbase & Efma also emphasizes that “people love digital services … because they are easy to use and delivers great customer experience”. Without a doubt digitization, automation and leveraging the internet is the new order and not walking the path is losing out on huge market opportunities.

In a recent presentation to the Ghana Credit Union Managers Association (GHACUM) annual conference held at the Training School of the Ghana Co-operative Credit Unions Association (CUA), I had the opportunity to speak to a gathering of Credit Union Managers on the topic “New Trends In Digital Banking” and successfully drove home the need to embrace the new order in banking. Without a doubt, the house shared the conclusion that digital banking is the present and will constitute the core of service delivery in future banking. What was also obvious during the deliberation was that, only a fraction of Credit Unions in Ghana have adopted some form of digital banking. And for the few in mention, the journeys to incorporate the full strand of digital banking platforms is clearly yet to begin.

The issues militating against Credit Unions in this digital direction are known, understood and to a large extent resolvable. What however seem fundamentally worrying is that, Managers and Board of Credit Unions are lacking in their ability to conceive of the growth opportunities that digital banking throws out on its path. Whilst to some, it is a matter of not knowing how digital banking can be relevant to the members (credit Union customers) they serve, to a good majority the challenge bothers on the reluctance to depart from legacy systems and “how we have always done things around here”. Whilst the benefits of going digital was well demonstrated and acknowledged, it was obvious that only continuous education and relevant workshops in that regard can drive the necessary change. Some of the insights shared with the participants were indeed impactful and embracing.

The changing landscape of banking globally creates a sense of urgency in embracing and delivering banking services through unlimited customer touch points (omni-channel). Technology is defining everything given the fact that added facilitation by the internet has made us more connected than ever before globally. Thanks to technology advancement and the affordability factor created by China, the mobile is the most widely adopted device globally (over 6.8 billion). Ghana has over 35 million mobile phone users as against a population of about 27 million generating about 128% penetration rate. This is a telling statistics explaining why banks are increasingly leveraging the mobile phone to deliver greater banking experience and to get hold of a wider audience as well in a cost-contained manner.

The customer is an ever evolving solution-seeker. Changing lifestyle is driving the search for financial services that saves them time, money, hassle as well as keeps them safe. These are core value drivers in the banking space and it is proven that digital banking delivers these benefits in a manner that increases customer experience. This possibility is also largely driven by the availability of willing collaborators, such as financial and technology firms, who are interested in leveraging their expertise to create the digital platform for financial transactions.

Strategically, digital banking presents growth opportunities for Credit Unions. Own research and analysis conducted in the sector revealed that, one out of every two Credit Union members also holds an account with another commercial banking institution.  It was also estimated that of the Credit Union members that also operates accounts with commercial banks, the share of business ranges between 30-40% in favour of Credit Unions whilst the rest is transacted with commercial banks. Whilst other reasons such as proximity accounted for this outcome, it was increasingly clear that there were other core factors. Interview with sampled respondents of the survey clearly pointed to the fact that the combination of the level of digitization and automation to offer prompt and extended array of transactional banking services is a key factor. This is because most if not all Credit Unions, although doable, are unable to deliver such required service and as such are stacked in the limited and slow banking services afforded by the legacy systems in place.

If this were to change, greater fortunes will follow. Credit Unions do not only stand to benefit from increasing their stake in members’ wallets (even as their businesses grow to demand higher level banking services), but also the opportunity to break the tradition of targeting only the illiterate, semi-literate and the low-income earners in communities. Thus, going digital can significantly appeal and result in the capture of market share in the affluent and educated segment of the banking population. The possibility of banking the elite and well-endowed in society can only be boosted with fundamental change in operating model of Credit Union Organizations to incorporate digitization and automation. By embracing digital banking, Credit Unions stand to eliminate costly back-office transaction processing, record fewer errors and have access to wider geographical audience. To members they stand to benefit from lower transaction cost, 24/7 service availability and own-time banking flexibility. Without a doubt, the growing time-pressured lifestyle means that convenience is everything to the consumer of financial service and if that can be delivered with digital banking, Credit Unions are undoubtedly set for growth.

Given the financial muscle of Credit Unions, a good advice will be to consider riding at the back of commercial banks in a strategic partnership mood in the arena of infrastructure sharing. This has the impact of significantly minimizing the associated cost and cash flow implication. However seeking such partnerships requires internal systems and processes of Credit Unions to be set sound; digitization and automation shall undoubtedly become a key demand.

Whilst embracing digital banking creates wave of growth opportunities, it is important to acknowledge the repercussion of doing otherwise.

1. Digital banking is gradually becoming a threshold capability in competitive banking. Credit Unions not possessing this baseline capability thus place them in a disadvantageous position opening them up to attacks from the competition.

2. Banks are searching for growth from non-traditional customers and they are leveraging digital to capture far-away customers that previously were outside their purview. Going digital is thus Credit Unions’ best bet to fight them off.

3. Without meaningful digital base, Credit Unions are ill-prepared and ill-placed to benefit from crucial alliances and collaborations.

4. Financial services are increasingly shifting online, and in the end digital banking will rule every available space. If Credit Unions are not there at the time, where will they be?

Customers want to pay for goods and services, transfer money to relatives and friends, apply for loan, and check their account balances without having to make a trip to the Credit Union office. And only digital banking can deliver these service needs. Notwithstanding, the approach to digital banking must be strategic and different depending on the growth agenda of Credit Unions. Cautiously noting, there is no one size fits all approach. Assessing internal readiness; systems, processes, and people is paramount. According to McKinsey, “we estimate that digital transformation will put upward 30 percent of the revenues of typical bank……. in play, particularly high-turnover products such as personal loans and payments. We also estimate that banks can remove 20 to 25 percent of their cost base by leveraging this digital shift to transform how they process and service. Put together, the economics of a digital bank will give it a vast competitive edge over a traditional incumbent. It is fair to say that getting digital banking right is a do-or-die challenge”.

Credit Unions have waited way too long to change with the times. Customers are evolving and they will stay loyal to Credit Unions that know them and make banking convenient and easy. The benefit of going digital and the threat of not doing so bother on the survival of Credit Unions and must be taken serious. The digital banking journey may be one that will take years to travel but the first step must be taken today; thus thinking it.

Ellah Makuba is a banking professional with over 5 years experience with particular interest in strategy work.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the West Cape Strategy Group or official policies of the company.

training

How an African Tech Policy can help African Startups tackle the top 3 digital priorities of the continent

The West Cape Strategy Group has been advocating for a concrete Policy direction for the flourishing technology and innovations sector in Africa. Alan Akakpo, Project Director at West Cape takes his turn to highlight how an African Tech Policy can help African Startups tackle the top 3 digital priorities of the continent.

African startups can lead the way in taming what experts refer to as the change monster – the inability of various sectors of society to adapt to emerging transformative technologies. African innovations will only be driven by a policy agenda capable of addressing the continent’s top most digital priorities.

Mainstreaming technology into the educational system: the long-term goal

Digital literacy has to be purposefully integrated into the academic curricula because Africa’s leapfrogging to the fourth industrial revolution will not be possible with the conventional pen and pencil approach. Some countries like Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Rwanda are adopting practical approaches to build the human capital that will meet the demand of knowledge-economies. But others are spending citizens’ taxes on transitional strategies that will bring about everything except tectonic shifts in the economic landscape. Benchmarking apps, digital tools and frameworks can be developed by African startups. It will go a long way in pulling forward those African countries that are lagging behind. Mainstreaming technology into the system also reduces the cost of access to educational infrastructure while improving the quality of educational contents.

Technology as an infrastructure: the medium-term panacea

Alan Akakpo, Project Director at West Cape SG
Alan Akakpo, Co-Founder of Westcape

This is a resolute stand we have quickly taken at West Cape SG. To me, this is the topmost digital policy priority for the continent. Africa requires bold experimentation and tech-based investments into broadband networks, electronic manufacturing projects and acquisition of tangible tech megatrends and gadgets. This is the how we can boost national and regional tech capacities that will translate into the exponential development of innovation hubs and the offering of top class services. Here, advocacy and Public Private Partnerships (PPP) are the most effective tools.

Digital jobs: the short term confidence builder

We agree that digital economy has to be captured in the continental framework and flexible regional strategies have to designed and implemented rapidly. It is not the case yet. Hypothetically, the Governments are not knowledgeable about the urge and the strategies to put in place. It is nonetheless important that African Startups take the lead in sharing information about digital job opportunities.

It is estimated that the work of professions like financial analysts, doctors, journalists, accountants may be partly or completely automated by 2025. In Africa, businesses do not really know what to make of such research findings as there is very little insight generated on future job prospects and the impact of transformative technologies on our industries. African startups should take collective actions to come out with more commercial form of research, generate and document practical knowledge about the needed technological drivers of growth and job creation on the continent.

For instance, the 419 epidemic – a type of scam – has been hitting some African countries so hard that internet users may have developed serious risk aversion for African digital products. 419 can be rebranded through a positive agenda and a comprehensive labor substitution strategy that will concur to shaping a better digital ecosystem for the continent.

What we are doing

West Cape SG is committed to ensuring the development of technology infrastructure in Africa through the Africa Tech Policy project (Learn more about the Project here)

To know more about the Africa Tech Policy, send us an e-mail at info@westcapestrategy.com with the subject line ATP.

Technology Infrastructure

Notes 2.0: Technology is an Infrastructure, Not a Service

I have started a blog on the West Cape Strategy Group’s website called “Notes 2.0”. It is a less than 500-word article I will be publishing every Thursday on Technology and Innovations, Entrepreneurship and Business, Economy and Politics among other topics. I hope you enjoy it.


By Isidore Kpotufe / CEO of West Cape Strategy Group.

The Minister of Finance of Ghana, Hon. Seth Terkper has indicated that the Ghanaian economy in 2017 will to a very large extent be driven by the Oil and Gas sector, with the coming on board of the Tweneboa, Enyenra, Ntomme (TEN) fields which started producing oil in August, this year, together with the Sankofa Field which is expected to start production in August 2017.

Now, I cannot understand why the government would choose to ride on such a bumpy road. Ghana is not alone. Other African countries, including Nigeria heavily rely on Oil and Gas for revenue mobilisation. But global dynamics indicate strong uncertainty for oil price stability going into 2017.

Africa has offered many of the best examples of just how transformative Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) can be in terms of development over recent years, from the spectacular success of mobile banking, to smart apps now being used across the entire continent for tracking and preventing malaria, Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Cancer, to distance learning opportunities at every level of education, and to telecentres that help preserve and enrich the cultural lives of rural and remote communities.

Indeed, it is striking to note that over 90% of African governments do not see Technology as an Infrastructure, thus fail to put in place the relevant support policies.

If we invested only $25bn today in developing the BASIC (and I mean basic) Technology Infrastructure and ecosystem of 10 African countries, we would have created MILLIONS of jobs in the next 10 years and grown the economy of Sub-Sahara Africa by 10 folds. The GDP of Africa is almost equivalent to that of France.

However, unfortunately, African governments have not seen the innumerable opportunities in the ICT sector yet.

Someone has to take an action.

Join us at the Africa Tech Policy Forum:

There are no adequate policy incentives to motivate African Tech entrepreneurs to match up to the continent’s ICTs challenges. The West Cape Strategy Group together with other partners is championing the cause of a common Africa Tech Policy. Learn more here

About Isidore Kpotufe

Isidore is a self-trained idea entrepreneur, CEO and Founder of West Cape Strategy Group, an Internet Technology and Business Development Firm that’s changing how governments and private sector do business in Africa. Learn more about him

Follow on twitter @freeisidore

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9 ways African businesses can increase Sales with Social Media

Studies suggest that Africans spend much more time on social media than any other online platforms. Here are 9 ways to take advantage of social media to make more sales.


In the past, many overlooked the market Africa could bring to mobile phone industries and related businesses during the massive patronage of mobile phones in the developed world in the 90’s. The few bold ones that took the risk to invest and sell in Africa are still benefiting endlessly. The numerous cell phone users in Africa are now coupling their massive taste in cell phones with a more excessive interest in social media.

Studies suggest that Africans spend much more time on social media than any other online platforms. The major social media platform worldwide and the most visited social media website in Africa is Facebook; others include Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Why the need for social media for your business?

Social media platforms allow users to create, share and exchange information and ideas in the virtual world, therefore the active use of social media for your business allows you to stay connected to the consumer market or the consumer. First rule of business, without the consumer there is no market, to stay in business, the business must be where the consumer is, which is generally referred to as marketing or advertisement. Where is the attention of the customer? Social Media!

Money flows where the attention goes, social media is where the attention of consumer is currently and it is rapidly expanding, people carry smart phones that support and give instant access to the internet and social media applications. This is a great opportunity for every business, big or small to market their products or services right at the doorstep of customers or potential customers within seconds. Read more on this topic>>>

Where do I start?

You just took a bold and rewarding step by choosing social media. To start with, you must identify the most used social media platforms within your locality, it is advisable to narrow them down to at most 5 platforms to gain control and perfectly understand how they work and work hand in hand with each other before you proceed to other applications. We recommend Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and YouTube for a start. For these platforms you will be required to;

1. Create an Account

To create your business account, you need to have a username in mind, the username must be related to the name of your business as much as possible. A password will also be required, to successfully create your business account, you must agree and accept the terms and conditions for using the application. For the selected social media applications, it is advisable to use similar handles or usernames throughout, this helps users to easily locate your business account or handle on the social media platforms just by knowing the name of your business.

2. Create your bio

Your bio simply describes your business. As many words as allowed,  you are required to describe your business the best way you can, highlighting the product(s) or service(s) your business provides.

3. Get a business logo

This is very important considering that you are now creating a virtual store. Anywhere the logo is seen online, customers can actually trace and know that, this a product or service provided by your business. Get a logo that is appealing to the eye and best express your business. Upload and set this business logo as the display picture for the chosen social media platforms. Note that anytime your display or profile picture is changed, it must run throw the other accounts. Also, picture or video posts must have the logo watermarked or embedded in them.

4. Get a Website

As your business is expanding and growing, it is necessary that you get a website for your business, the website will be the virtual headquarters for your business, where files and posts are well organized and easily surfed. Unlike the website, the social media platforms come with restrictions on posts, a typical example is twitter which allows just 140 characters per post. Also it is very difficult to access old posts on social media.

How to stay on top, promote your business and increase sales

To increase sales and patronage your business deserves, it mostly depends on the number of people your posts reach and how convincing your posts are, there is therefore the need to strategize and plan, how best your posts can be seen and how best it can entice customers or potential customers. To help with that, here are some points to consider;

5. Scheduled posts

All posts must be well scheduled and timed, social media allow you to post blogs, pictures, videos and links about your business and also caption them. It must be considered the time of the day the posts are made and the time most users are active to see posts. Posts made with your business account appear on the timeline or “wall” of users that follow your business account. Three (3) posts a day at least is okay with one is the morning, one is the afternoon and one in the evening.

6. Graphics

All posts must be accompanied with well-designed graphics, watermarked with the business logo and contacts, this attracts users to appreciate and read posts.

7. Interactive posts

Interactive posts is the salt in the soup that gives it that splendid taste. These are not the usual posts that are reaching out in the form of advertisement, they are meant to be exciting, talking about new trends and engaging. They invite more likes, views, shares, retweets and comments than the usual posts. They can be in the form of quotes, riddles, jokes, fashion, questions etc. This is unlimited to your amount of creativity. All interactive posts must have the business logo and contact which indirectly informs users where they are enjoying such a post and where to come for more.

8. Like, share, retweet, favorite, comment and follow

This targets to increase your post reach and increase your business page fan base or followers. The business handle must be used to like, share, retweet, favorite, comment and follow accordingly and responsibly, whatever the handle is used to endorse by liking or commenting reflects on the business. Adopting this strategy makes your business handle get noticed.

9. Use of hashtags

The power of hashtags should not be underestimated. To well explain how hashtags work and why they should be used, here is an instance: let’s say I am very active on Instagram and I am looking for shoes to buy, I can go to the search engine on Instagram and by choosing the hashtag search, I type shoes and a grid of posts appears, these posts can lead me to a shoe company’s page. Hashtags organize your posts like an album to improve search. It is good to have a consistent hashtags for all posts made.

4 Ways African Start-Ups Can Leverage On The New Media For Growth

You may doubt if you had been told in the 90s that the advent of fast rising new media will revolutionise the entire world in the new millennium. Let me take you through four reasons why you need to bank on social media for an exponential growth in your business.


You may doubt if you had been told in the 90s that the advent of fast rising new media will revolutionise the entire world in the new millennium. The ripple effect is clear to all and sundry. According to StartUp Grind, fast growing Silicon Valley companies leverage on social media as part of the ways of widening their horizon and garner for support for their startups.

Now, let me take you through four reasons why you need to bank on social media for an exponential growth in your business:

1. Community

There is a teeming number of people who are signed on to a social media channel daily. According to StatsMonkey, the most used social network in Ghana is Facebook with a usage of about 94.89%. This basic statistic means that, a large number of the Ghanaian community are connected to one social network or the other. Let’s demystify this, in as much you have people moving from one place to another to search for goods and services, there exists some equally large number of people who spend some time using the internet for social media and may bump into things to buy or a service to be rendered to them. This is one of the reasons why as an emerging business, you have the leverage of the social network community.

2. Cost-Effectiveness

Traditional marketing was what businesses took advantage of in order to break into their market. As a small business breaking into the highly-competitive market in this 21st century, there should be a considerable form of using the digital media to enter into the market. Both channels of marketing are essential but as an SME, starting the digital media way will save you some cash to take care of other things as far your business is concerned. For instance, a sponsored ad on Facebook for a week will cost not more than $70 (GHC280.00) for a reach of over thousands of people. On the other hand, a billboard will not be less than $254 (GHC1, 000). The cost of moving from one place to another to market your product will reduce since you are mostly immobile in using social media. You will agree with me that, as a typical African business, you are being handicapped by economic shocks like high inflation rate, high interest rate and so on; therefore, using the new media will be an add-on.

3. Measurability

The whole concept of digital marketing is interlaced with the ability to measure your performance over a period of time. The analytics that these social networks provide are vital to the growth and sustainability of your small business. Performance management is one of the major factors of business development and the new media makes it possible to measure your performance online for a defined period of time. The reason is that it helps you strategise and look out for innovative ways of marketing and if possible, a change of social media channel. You may not be able to measure the number of people who have watched an ad on the television but give rough approximations, you may not know how many people see that billboard on the street; the point is not to downplay the essence of traditional marketing but as an emerging business you can make a lot out of social media, thus the ability to measure result and performances.

4. Customer Support

Customer retention is to some extent, dependent on the speed of response given to customers’ complaints. One tool that characterizes the social media platforms is that there are ways to easily reach out to you. It is very simple for customers to for instance to mention your business’ twitter handle and tweet their problems or issues out to you on Twitter. Facebook users can also send messages to register their complaints or enquire about your services. One thing to consider is that, if prudent measures are not taken to address these customers’ issues, some may vent their frustrations via the social networks. They ripple effect is not something you would want to bear because a bad reference is a bad reputation for your business. As an emerging business, social media gives you the opportunity to respond to complaints quickly.

You cannot underestimate the effect of social media and how it is quickly creeping into our world.

Ignore it and you are bound to stagnate with your business.

Branding 101: Tips for Building a Killer Identity

Many get caught up with the word “brand” and believe it’s this colossal term reserved for corporate powerhouses. The reality is that every company—and in this day of social media, most individuals—can benefit from establishing what their brand equals.


By Lou Imbriano | CEO, TrinityOne, Inc


My roots are in sports, so I sometimes use sports references to help me get my business points across. When it comes to Branding 101, it’s like getting hits in baseball. If you hit the ball well and cover all the bases, you can hopefully score with a winning brand and excel in the game of growing your consumers.

Know What Your Brand Means

To build your brand, you need to know what your brand equals or what you want it to equal. Write down all the characteristics that describe what you are and how you would like to be perceived. Once you compile that list, you could fine-tune it and make sure you have full command of your brand in order to reach your customers and, more importantly, your potential customers. The adjectives and characteristics that make up your brand ideally differentiate you from your competitors and provide a clear understanding of what your business is not only capable of doing, but also what it is known for, and how you successfully sell your products and services.

The adjectives and characteristics that make up your brand ideally differentiate you from your competitors and provide a clear understanding of what your business is not only capable of doing, but also what it is known for.

Many small-business owners believe their business serves a need for a particular audience. But the problem is knowing if that potential customer base is large enough to build a business. A neighbor of mine came back from the Caribbean after a wonderful week of fun and lounging on the sunbeds that were all around the resort. He’s a carpenter and thought it would be a cool idea to build and sell them to folks on the lake. He built a prototype and figured out the cost per unit and what he would price it at retail. Due to production costs and the number of potential buyers on the lake, even if he got everyone to buy, the profits were not going to be sufficient enough to operate a business. He wisely chalked it up to a cool idea and not a business. My neighbor was smart enough to realize that to build a brand, you need an audience.

In this resort bed example, the target audience and the product need weren’t great enough to build a business and a brand around the concept. A viable business may lend itself to building that solid brand and assist the business’s growth.

Make Your Employees Brand Ambassadors

Your employees should know what the brand stands for and be true to the brand in everything they do. Often the owner and management know what the brand equals, but the people actually interacting with customers may not fully grasp the brand and its intent.

Many company leaders do not know who they are or how to convey what the brand equals, and employees at these companies have brand confusion and questions. Instead of being sure when it comes to their brand interactions, they may guess how they should represent the brand. This is an area where small businesses have the potential to outshine large corporations. Your employees can have a much deeper relationship with consumers, and, because of the multiple hats they wear, should be able to absorb the brand to the fullest.

The key is keeping your employees engaged, informed and empowered. Capture the brand so they understand it and know what you want to convey. Don’t just assume they will get it. Train them with examples that are both pro and con so they are fully schooled to represent the brand properly. Once they are trained and understand the brand, encourage them to support the brand message and reward them for acting in your brand’s best interests. The systems and protocols should help reinforce the importance of representing your brand. This is less about what they are saying to customers and more about how they are acting and embodying the brand. For example, if the brand is all about precision and cleanliness, then undocked and soiled uniforms are not properly displaying the brand.

Communicate Your Brand to the Public

Communicating your brand positioning is not just about the adjectives you choose to support what the brand equals. It also involves the methods and manner in which you are communicating the brand to the general public and, more importantly, to your target consumers. This has to do with the messaging and communication of the brand to others.

To aid yourself and your employees, you might create phrases, copy and descriptions that hit the bull’s-eye when communicating with customers or clients. It may help not just to know what the brand stands for but also how to properly communicate that in order to avoid brand confusion. Create a checklist of points to touch on while engaging with customers, to stay in line with the brand and what it represents. It might include situational encounters where a customer makes a request or has a question and the employee has a guide to the appropriate answer or response.

Also consider ensuring there is a set opening and exit when communicating to punctuate the brand and its positioning so the first and last impressions are always on brand. Lead them to the right path in consumer engagement and help them support the brand.

Get Target Customers to Amplify Your Brand

Finally, when your target consumers understand the nuances of your brand and can distinguish how your brand differs from the competition, you might have hit the ultimate brand goal.

To help ensure all brand communications and associations are consistent, try having a brand filter or a systematic questionnaire. This filter might have questions that help you determine whether or not your brand is being properly communicated and represented.

For example, one question might be, “Is the vehicle or manner of communication consistent with how the brand is perceived?” If you are selling pizza dough, you may not want to promote it in a restaurant review magazine that is more targeted to people who enjoy fine dining, whereas a baking, cooking or trade publication may make more sense, depending on your brand filter.

Another example question in the brand filter: “Does the association help or hinder the brand?” Using the same example of the pizza dough, you may not want to sell your dough in a bakery that has terrible reviews. Sure, the fact that it is a bakery provides relevance, but their terrible reviews could assist in eroding your brand. Also remember, it may work best when one person or group is in charge of determining the relevance of the association, to keep the interpretation of the brand filter more consistent.

If you communicate your brand message to your target audience properly and your brand positioning is easy to understand, hopefully your employees will be great brand ambassadors, along with your most avid consumers. When your consumers are fans of your brand and identify with it, they may become vocal in spreading your brand’s message. Word of mouth marketing has always been important, but it can be even more crucial in this age of social media. Just as you reward your employee, you might give perks and special treatment to those avid customers and fans of your brand that promote your products and services. Their endorsement may be more powerful than any commercial or copy you could produce.

When I was a kid, my mother always used to say that you are the company you keep. So hiring the wrong employees and aligning with the wrong vendors and partners may erode your brand. A strong group of caretakers of your brand may lead to further reaching brand ambassadors with your consumers. When you build that consistency and integrity and it flows through your customers, you just may hit a Brand Grand Slam.

 

8 reasons why your best employees are leaving you and how to retain them

There are many reasons why people change jobs. These days, it is uncommon for someone to get a job and stick with it for the rest of their life. There are many opportunities and our lives are filled with diversity and flexibility. However, there are often patterns to why people decide to move on from what seemingly is ideal employment — and it isn’t just about the money or the location.


By Diane Koopman | lifehack.org


Here are eight common reasons why someone might quit their job.

1. Disrespected and undervalued staff

When you are treated like just a cog in the wheel and you feel like just another number, you feel dehumanized and worthless. Sometimes, employers are only concerned about profits, output, pleasing stakeholders, and productivity. These factors are certainly important for a successful business venture, but they are impossible to achieve if the people doing the work are being mistreated.

Staff are human beings. Workers are people and they need to be given dignity and motivation to be productive. The outcome is just as much about them as it is about the consumer or investor. If staff are underpaid, not provided with flexible work practices, and not given adequate benefits or a safe, healthy, and enjoyable working environment, they are likely to quit. Staff retention is underrated, and a lot of expertise is lost when experienced people are pushed out of their jobs through sheer neglect.

2. No career progression

People no longer want to just do the same thing day in and day out for the rest of their lives. They want to feel as though they are learning and progressing in their careers. Staff expect to be trained and educated so they can build their skills and experience. They want to grow with the organization they work for and to have something to show for their years of hard work. They want variety and excitement and they want to be challenged. If a job provides no opportunity for career progression, chances are workers will quit and seek greener pastures with better opportunities elsewhere.

3. Inequality

If a workplace still seems as though it’s in another decade in terms of its employment practices and policies, staff are likely to quit even before their first year is complete. Nobody wants to work in an environment that is sexist, racist, ageist, or discriminatory in any way. Times have changed. The human race has intellectually evolved, and when inequality is rife in a workplace, staff retention is difficult. Workplaces need to adapt to individual needs and allow for diversity and flexibility. People no longer tolerate workplaces that harbor an outdated culture. Even if people choose to stay in these workplaces, or have little other choice, that business or endeavor is guaranteed to fail and will not be able to compete with more progressive and evolved workplaces.

4. Low morale

When people are generally unhappy in a workplace, it is evident the minute you walk through the door. People are cynical, impolite, and will find any excuse to avoid being productive. There are no consequences for poor productivity or incomplete and incompetent service, and eventually people start looking for an exit strategy.

Team building and union among workers are vital components to the success of any workplace, and individuals on every level need to genuinely care about each other and the common goals of the workplace. When there is a breakdown in communication and a feeling of futility in putting in any effort at work, nobody wants to be there anymore. This is the perfect reason for someone to quit their job before the workplace starts to have an adverse effect on their health.

5. No recognition or reward

Everyone needs a pat on the back every now and then. Sometimes, a kind word of thanks or just being acknowledged for the effort you put in is enough. You don’t need to receive a gold trophy or fat bonus check to feel like you are being appreciated — however, incentives can go a long way towards giving people motivation and a feeling of purpose. If you have never been thanked or noticed in a job, you are likely to feel invisible and worthless. Deciding to quit can be the easiest option.

6. Discouraging enthusiasm

Innovation and ideas are the heartbeat of an organization, and everyone should be given a chance to show initiative. Some workplaces are incredibly resistant to change, even if those changes will mean a vast improvement in work practices or productivity. People will often start a job with positive energy and idealism, which is quickly thwarted by a management that is stale and lacks vision. When your enthusiasm is constantly diminished, you not only avoid taking risks and trying new things, you become jaded and are further enticed to quit and find something new.

7. Promoting the wrong people

Some workplaces develop a culture of rewarding the wrong people. There’s a saying that good bosses will hire people that are smarter than them. This is never the case when a boss has a big ego and feels threatened by anyone who shows intelligence and ability. What tends to happen is that people are promoted for their ability to be invisible and submissive rather than innovative and competitive. This protects the power structure rather than developing a system that has efficiency, capability, and professionalism as its goal.

8. Hierarchy instead of autonomy

When the hierarchy is more important than the value of each and every person contributing to a pursuit, a workplace not only loses excellent opportunities for wisdom and sound judgement, but also crushes self reliance and vital decision-making skills in its workers.

Strong leadership in a workplace should empower its staff to be self reliant and conscientious for the greater good of the business. Power struggles and mind games only work against the common goal and contribute to a toxic workplace. Staff will quit by the dozens when they are infantilized and feel that they can’t be trusted to make even the most basic choices by themselves, having to get permission for every move they make. It is lazy and uneducated leadership that forces good workers to quit dysfunctional workplaces.

 

81% of hotels in Accra have no active websites – GN Research

A study conducted by GN Research in Ghana’s capital city, Accra has revealed 81 percent of hotels do not have a website or up-to- date one as well as an active facebook account for review by both domestic and foreign travelers.

The research conducted over a period of almost two (2) months revealed that, out of a total of almost 500 hotels located in the Greater Accra region, only 93 have functional websites, of which 51 hotels regularly update them. 84 hotels also have facebook accounts but more  than 50% are dormant.

Only 20 out of a total of 284 budget hotels also have websites but more than half do not update them. Only 20 of these also have facebook accounts, of which 11 are dormant.

The situation for guest houses is no different as just a little above 20% of the 54 engaged have websites but about 80 percent regularly update them. About 28% have facebook accounts, of which over 50% are however dormant.

With 1-star hotels, only 27% out a total of 84 have websites but less than 10% regularly update them. Only 18% in this category also have facebook accounts with less than 5% keeping them active.

The advent of internet technology has proved useful in the hospitality industry across the world.

Nevertheless, almost all 3 to five 5-star hotels in Accra have regularly updated websites and Facebook accounts. This includes Kempinski, Labadi Beach, Mövenpick Ambassador, Fiesta Royale, La Palm Royal, Novotel, Alisa, M Plaza, Oak Plaza, the African Regent and the Royal Richester Hotels.

Some 57% of 2-star hotels located in Greater Accra region have websites but only 36% regularly update them to meet the needs of travelers. 47% of hotels in this category have facebook accounts, of which more than 60% actively engage prospective clients on their page.

These also include Coconut Grove Regency, African Royal Beach, Airport View, Airport West and Maxlot Hotels.

The hotels without websites (generally Ghanaian-owned) site the excuse of being interested in only domestic clients and/or their facilities remotely cited from the airport and therefore unnecessary to run a website.

Only a few renowned hotels (predominantly with international partners) are thus currently benefiting from the increase in international tourist arrivals in the country. In 2014, Ghana recorded the highest growth in traveler numbers – 37% from neighboring Cote d’Ivoire, 30% from Italy and 29% from the Scandinavian countries.

In an interview with JOY BUSINESS, the Head of GN Research, Samuel Kofi Ampah explained the current situation where most hotels have no website could therefore affect the potential growth of Ghana’s tourism and hospitality industry as well as investor confidence in the economy.

“The advent of internet technology has proved useful in the hospitality industry across the world. Consumers have increasingly been using the Internet to search for accommodation-related information on hotel websites,” Mr. Ampah said.

“An investor might come in with a budget and if he/she is unable to have first-hand access to relevant information on hotel accommodation and location to help him decide how many days he could spend in the country, it does not promote whatever growth agenda for the industry and the country at large. It is against this backdrop, GN Research sought to understand the importance of establishing a content-rich and user-friendly websites by Ghanaian hotel industry players with this study” he added.

Online reputation is currently regarded a major driver for hotel performance in many advanced and emerging economies. Most travelers use online sources to take decisions on hotels they may want to lodge in rather than the usual recommendations from friends and work colleagues which later turn out to be a wrong choice.

A vibrant hospitality industry is generally said to impact directly on the development of any economy, by creating jobs and generating foreign exchange and tax revenue for the government.

According to Mr. Ampah, the Ghana Tourism Authority must thus as a matter of urgency move to ensure that hotel facilities in the country necessarily establish websites and regularly update them on their operations.

“We have done this research to show the Tourism Authority that we still have a long way to go if we want to promote tourism in the country. The authority’s mandate is to promote tourism which requires making checks easier for tourists and investors. It therefore only needs to engage the hospitality industry players to impress on them the need to incorporate this international best practice in their operations for maximum benefits to their operations and the economy as a whole,” he concluded.

How we are helping

As part of our commitment to help businesses in Africa grow securely but competitively, we have introduced the Ghana Hotel and Tourism Program (GHTP).

For all hotels and guest houses that sign up to the Program, they will benefit from our GHTP e-Suite which includes a free domain name (e.g. www.examplehotel.com), a free website hosting for 12 months , a free listing on our online shop, EsiCom.Net and a tailor-made training program (GHTP Training).

Learn more here

5 Good Reasons To Take Your Business Online

The internet is a fact of business life, so even small firms need a presence online to hook customers. Despite the ever-increasing importance of an online presence for businesses of all sizes and descriptions, many smaller businesses are not adjusting their strategy accordingly.


By Jane Williams | Demand Media


Giving your small business an online presence means more than simply putting up a little website with your company’s address and phone number. It means setting up a virtual version of your business, with a welcoming, informative website, a Facebook page and Twitter account. In this electronic era, more people search online for the products and services they need as opposed to searching through a phone book. Ignoring this important potential marketing platform is akin to saying, “I don’t need any new business.

I. Accessibility

The Internet never sleeps, and every portal you offer online gives your business a virtual 24-hour showroom. This allows potential customers to research your product or service after business hours, and in the privacy of their own home. If you sell products, an online store allows for 24-hour order placement to capture a sale as soon as a customer is interested, as opposed to waiting for your brick-and-mortar store to open, by which time the urge to buy may have passed.

II. Brand Building and Identity

At its core, “brand building” actually means building a potential customer’s trust in your company or product. Providing an online presence not only gives a customer access to your product or service, but it also provides a way for the customer to “check out” your company. Online reviews, your interactions with other customers and the frequency and quality of your posts help to form a positive impression of your company in the potential customer’s mind, making a future sale more likely.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]At AWC, we often see fledgling businesses that have spent significant amounts of cash – at a time when they can least afford it – on marketing materials that end up offering a poor return on investment or, even worse, damaging their brand. When cash is tight, the temptation can be to go for the cheapest option – for example, through low-cost business cards and websites. But companies can end up paying twice when they realize the cheapest option isn’t the right way for them to communicate their business brand.[/su_pullquote]

III. Greater Audience

The Internet encompasses a much larger area than the few miles local to your business’ office or store. Your Web presence reaches out to everyone who passes by your virtual doorstep, which could include people from right next door or in another country. Depending on your specific industry and offerings, this could open up a much wider customer base than relying on face-to-face interactions would.

IV. Reviews

Some may consider reviews a double-edged sword of conducting business on the World Wide Web, as there will always be that possibility of receiving a negative one, fairly or not. But if you run your business honestly and treat your customers well, these should be isolated incidents, outnumbered by the many raving reviews left by your satisfied customers. Potential customers often check for reviews of a company or product before using either, so always encourage happy customers to leave reviews on rating sites such as Yelp or Google Places.

V. Easier Selling and Marketing

It’s a well-known marketing fact that people like to buy but don’t like to be sold. A well-written piece of copy for your products or services on your website allow buyers to make a more relaxed, informed decision to purchase, as opposed to feeling pressured by a possible pushy salesperson. Marketing your business is also easier and more far reaching, as the electronic format allows for a wider, more cost-effective distribution as opposed to traditional marketing, which usually included printing and mailing costs.

At West Cape Strategy Group, we say your website is your first office and your online presence is your first location. Se how we can help you

 

chief digital officer

The New Chief Digital Officer

by Roman Friedrich, Pierre Péladeau, and Kai Mueller

More than a quarter of the world’s population owns a smartphone. In 2014, global mobile data traffic reached 2.5 billion gigabytes per month, a figure that is 30 times as large as all the traffic on the Internet for the full year 2000. No wonder global companies are moving rapidly to reshape their businesses to meet this new level of connectivity. One way they are doing so is by appointing a new kind of executive, the chief digital officer (CDO). The CDO’s mandate: to equip companies for the digital future. This executive has the dual task of developing an all-inclusive digital experience for customers and the internal capabilities needed to support that experience — while simultaneously managing the considerable investment required. The emergence of the new role to lead the organization’s digital efforts may in part be a reaction to the chronically weak relationships between CIOs and CMOs, which we’ve observed over the last few years.

The number of companies that have hired CDOs remains small — just 6 percent globally, according to the results of the inaugural Strategy& study of digital leadership at 1,500 of the world’s largest companies. But the number is growing rapidly. Of the 86 CDOs we found, 31 were appointed in 2015. The sectors where the highest proportion of companies have CDOs are travel and tourism, with 31 percent; entertainment, media, and communications companies, with 13 percent; and food and beverage companies, with 11 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, only 1 percent of mining and metals companies had a CDO; just 2 percent of those in the automotive, machinery, and engineering sectors did; and only 3 percent in technology and electronics did. One is also more likely to see CDOs in European companies than in their U.S. or Asian counterparts, and CDOs are more likely to appear in large companies than small ones. We suspect that in many cases where a CDO has not been appointed, it is because the related responsibilities are already distributed among other top management roles and are entrenched in all aspects of the company’s culture.

In the past, traditional CIOs and CTOs were focused primarily on their companies’ IT, managing employee desktops and enterprise-wide ERP and CRM systems. The CDO role, although it varies from one company to another, is far more comprehensive. Besides customer experience, the development of digital features in new products and services, and the relevant operational changes, the CDO may oversee changes in technical infrastructure and innovations in data collection and analysis. The CDO must also be an agent of cultural change, championing the digital transformation throughout the company and linking it to the development of the distinctive capabilities that form the basis of a company’s strategy.

Here are glimpses of chief digital officers (or people in similar roles) at four major companies, and the ways in which they meet the challenge of digital transformation.

Jessica Federer is head of digital development at Bayer. “The data piece is actually the easiest,” she notes. “Data is data. It’s the people piece that’s the challenge. So we focus first on the people in the organization, and how we connect across synergies, across silos, over platforms and data.”

Soon after she was appointed, Federer created a digital council consisting of the CIOs and CMOs of the relevant divisions at Bayer. Their task was to look at potential synergies. She also fostered a huge network of people involved in some aspect of digital transformation, to which she gave the acronym NERD (Network for Enterprise Readiness and Digital). “They bring together digital marketing with digital product supply with digital R&D,” says Federer. “We used to do this in silos, but now we do it by sharing information.”

At Renault, CDO Patrick Hoffstetter is creating a centralized digital transformation organization, which he calls the Digital Factory. This is not a literal factory, but a metaphorical center for people throughout the company who already work on digital projects and another group working at about 65 outside suppliers. The factory is the nexus of communications about the digital strategy, and the place where resources and experts come to design the transition to what Hoffstetter calls “the connected employee.” The changes put into place at the Digital Factory will affect how people work, what they expect from the company, and what tools they are given.

Balancing the timetable for this complex shift is a key part of the CDO’s role. “One reason most operations in digital strategy and transformation are focused on sales and marketing is that these functions have a direct, quite short-term impact on the business,” says Hoffstetter. “Whereas when it comes to the evolution of internal processes, internal social networks, acceleration of collaborative tools, and internal training, it’s much harder to show any payback, and it takes a lot longer.”

Corinne Avelines, CDO of the decorative paints division of the Dutch chemical company AkzoNobel, says broad support is critical: “Commitment at the top management level to innovation and digitization has made my job considerably easier,” she says. “Senior support is key to ensuring commitment to digital at the company, especially one of this size.”

At the same time, she says, overall strategy must always drive decisions about how and what to digitize. “Gaining a competitive advantage in a fast-digitizing age is a challenge, so CDOs must understand their company’s current position and future strategy — what will make an impact on providing value to the customer — and focus on that. Worry about the other things later.”

Visa CDO Chris Curtin says that he has learned to participate actively in the creation of the overall business strategy — and lead the process when necessary. “I not only think that the best CDOs are reflective of the business,” he says, “I think that in many respects they are the business.” To that end, he believes that CDOs should “forget about digital. Forget about new media. The business objective has to permeate the thinking and the strategies and the go-to-market approach of the CDO and his and her team. Never make the means the end. A million followers on Twitter is just a means. The end is the business goal.”

The CDOs interviewed for this study all emphasized the importance of working closely with every function of the business. Being part of top management gives them a critical strategic perspective, but they must also be given the power and support they need from functional groups. Otherwise, they may find themselves with a seat at the table but without the strategic and operational input that the digital transformation needs.

Ultimately, the goal of every CDO is to ingrain the digital agenda so deeply and efficiently that it will become a way of life for everyone and every function in the organization, and a priority for every member of its C-suite. Sooner or later, companies may get to a point where a transformation isn’t necessary, because it has already happened. Digital technology will be so well integrated that it won’t be a separate issue anymore. It will simply be part of the way people work, and the CDO will move to some new type of challenge.

  • Roman Friedrich is a leading practitioner with Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business, and a partner with PwC Germany. He is based in Düsseldorf and Stockholm.
  • Pierre Péladeau is a thought leader on digital strategy with Strategy& and a  partner with PwC France, based in Paris.
  • Kai Mueller is a specialist with Strategy& and a senior research and knowledge manager with PwC Germany, based in Berlin.

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Leaders

Four Types of Authentic Informal Leaders you need to know

Every organization has people who influence and energize others without relying on their title or formal position in the hierarchy to do so. We call them “authentic informal leaders.” They are a powerful resource in spreading a critical few behaviors from the bottom up. Among the many types of informal leaders present in organizations, the following are seen most frequently.

  1. Pride builders

Pride builders are master motivators of other people, and catalysts for improvement around them. Often found in the role of line manager, they understand the motivations of those with whom they work. They know how to foster a sense of excellence among others. They can be found at every level of a hierarchy; some of the most effective pride builders are close to the front line, where they can interact directly with customers as well as employees. Pride builders often have powerful insights about the culture and about what behaviors are likely to lead to improvement.

2. Exemplars

Exemplars are role models. They bring vital behaviors or skills to life, and others pay attention to them. They are well respected and are effective peer influencers in the middle and senior management cohorts.

3. Networkers

Networkers are hubs of personal communication within the organization. They know many people, and communicate freely and openly with them. They serve as links among people who might not otherwise share information or ideas. If you want to see an idea travel virally through an enterprise, enlist your networkers.

4. Early adopters

Early adopters enthusiastically latch onto and experiment with new technologies, processes, and ways of working. Involve them in your performance pilots, or whenever you are trying to demonstrate impact quickly.