'In Africa the latest technology is vital to surviving in retail'... but the continent presents unique challenges
“In Africa, if you want to survive in retail you need to implement the latest technological advancements and sometimes even develop technology specifically for the environment,” says Andrew Dawson, Commercial Director of Solutions-in-hand.
Dawson was speaking to www.itweb.co.za about the South African company, which offers business mobile monitoring and intelligence across Africa.
He told www.itweb.co.za: “Africa is a massive contradiction in terms. It may well be behind the rest of the world in some ways, but if you want to survive in retail you need to implement the latest technological advancements and sometimes even develop technology specifically for the environment.
“No single country is the same, each one is very different and the only way to figure out how things work is to scope out the local conditions yourself. You have to go into the markets with the local sales teams and see how business is conducted. It’s the only way you’ll get a business off the ground, by visiting the retail outlets and engaging with the people who work there, as well as chatting to their customers.”
He also said it was vital to establish the local availability of data connectivity and electricity in urban and rural areas. If you want to implement Internet of things (IOT), you need access to both resources.
“In certain countries access to full-time electricity supply is not guaranteed although certainly improving year on year, this coupled with the fact that in some countries the retailer actually turns his retail units (fridges, display units) off owing to the cost of electricity.
“This has implications for anyone trying to deploy an IOT solution that requires a perpetual power source. And people use data differently in Africa. The costs vary on a daily basis, so SIM swapping between providers is common. People have multiple SIM cards and swap them out to benefit from the day’s special offer on data.”
Each country in Africa requires a unique approach to doing business in a retail environment, he says and his company offers a unique solution to the retail sector.
* Stock take (opening and closing).
* Stock movement from warehouse to delivery vehicle.
* Electronic recording of sales and returns.
* Settlement of cash and returns.
“There are a number of distribution management solutions that provide the above functionality, but only those companies that have dirtied their shoes by walking through the streets of the informal trade will be able to adapt to the unique curve balls Africa delivers,” the interview concludes.