“In a rapidly changing globalised world, megatrends pose serious risks to the way we do business. Companies that want to remain successful will have to safely navigate the challenges posed by these factors – or risk becoming obsolete.”
So says Chris Whelan, CEO of business think-tank Accelerate Cape Town, while addressing a quarterly gathering of the organisation’s members, which consists of over 45 of the largest corporates in Cape Town.
Four key megatrends
He outlined four key megatrends that will have an impact on Africa in the coming years: globalisation and urbanisation; the emerging African middle class; climate change; and demographic changes. “Currently, urbanization on the continent stands at about 40%, but by 2050 most Africans will live in cities, increasing the demand for infrastructure, transport, business and financial services, electricity and water, food, clothing and even luxury goods. This holds the promise of excellent opportunities for our businesses to grow and become even more globally competitive.”
Whelan was joined by Tanja Hichert from the Institute of Futures Research at the University of Stellenbosch, who said that globalisation has been the largest megatrend for the past few decades and will continue to be so in the coming decades. “Between 2010 and 2025, the global population will increase from 7 to 8 billion people. The ‘next billion’ will be Asian or African, and will live in the towns and cities of the developing world, with a concurrent shift in economic influence and power on the world stage.”
The role of technology
Hichert explained that one of the key uncertainties that we face is whether technological breakthroughs will be developed in time to boost economic productivity and solve the problems caused by a growing world population, rapid urbanization, and climate change. “Demand for food, water and energy will grow exponentially due to the increase in the global population. How we harness new technological advancements to solve the problems of tomorrow will be a key factor in our success on a global scale.”
Andre Hugo, Director of Deloitte Digital, echoed her sentiments. He said the phenomenon of ‘digital disruption’ is forcing massive changes in industries as diverse as medical, retail and education. “The world is seeing a boom in innovation in education, retail, mobile payment systems and the medical industry. While global trends will invariably influence Africa, it is important to understand that the solutions need to be tailored to suit the African context.”
For example, eLimu in Kenya uses technology in primary schools to change the approach to learning, and is dramatically improving the quality of education. “While this organisation delivers the technology through the use of a tablet, it doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to the challenge of quality education in South Africa. It’s far more valuable to first understand the specific needs of schools, and to tailor solutions based on this,” explained Hugo.
Training the workforce of tomorrow
He added that global corporations are also playing a key role in education in Africa. “For example, electronics giant Samsung is sponsoring 15 schools across the continent in order to find and develop the skills they need to remain competitive in the future.”
Whelan says this model holds huge potential for South Africa. “In a country where the quality of our education is a key contributor to our unemployment rate, it is critically important to consider how we educate workers for tomorrow’s complex, highly-competitive world. If big business can partner with government to provide much-needed funding, resources and knowledge in order to address critical skills shortages, we can raise a new generation of smart, innovative and entrepreneurial workers that will have a lasting impact on the country’s economic growth and its global competitiveness, to the benefit of all.”
The meeting took place at the offices of Deloitte, one of Accelerate Cape Town’s corporate sponsors.
For more information about Accelerate Cape Town, please visit www.acceleratecapetown.co.za