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CEOs adopt a wait-and-see approach to Artificial I...

CEOs adopt a wait-and-see approach to Artificial Intelligence

African CEOs are more promising to embracing Artificial Intelligence than Global CEOs, albeit both still score below average, a study has revealed.

The PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Africa Business Agenda Report says that the CEOs rate at 46 per cent for Africa while Global stand at 35 per cent, when asked whether they have plans of having Artificial Intelligence initiatives in their organizations in the next three years.

However, they all agree that Artificial Intelligence will a strong implication on businesses in the next five years.

Growth and expansion

According to the report, a large proportion of African CEOs (93 per cent) are ‘somewhat confident or ‘very confident’ about their organisation’s prospects for revenue growth over the next three years – higher than the global average of 85 per cent. However, faced with some uncertainty around current markets, CEOs are turning inward to drive revenue growth.

African CEOs identified operational efficiencies (80 per cent), organic growth (76 per cent) and the launch of a new products and services (58 per cent) as their primary drivers of revenue growth.

The report compiles results from a survey of 83 CEOs across 19 African countries. The results are benchmarked against the findings of PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO survey of more than 1 300 CEOs, conducted during the 4th quarter of 2018. It provides an in-depth analysis and insights into how businesses are adapting to meet the challenges and opportunities of operating in Africa.

Commenting on the survey findings, Peter Ngahu, Regional Senior Partner for PwC in the East Africa Region, said that the survey found that CEOs recognise technological advances among the most transformative global trends.

“In Africa, economic and policy uncertainty, skills gaps and regulatory issues are among the most pressing issues that CEOs are having to grapple with. African business leaders do see opportunities on the continent – but overall, they are playing it safe”, he noted.

He added that businesses with a clear purpose aligned to a collective sense of social responsibility are more successful in the marketplace and more attractive as employers.

Technological advances and data

The forces of globalisation and technology are transforming the workplace. A high percentage of African CEOs (83 per cent) ranked technological advances among the top three trends to have transformed the workplace most in the past five years.

Despite massive investments in technology, CEOs identified a vast gap between the data they need to inform decision-making and the adequacy of the data they receive. African CEOs say that their primary concerns are poor data quality and data that is trapped in silos.

Main risks on the Agenda

Ongoing economic, social and political uncertainty is a perennial worry for CEOs globally, not least for those in Africa. Concerns over policy uncertainty, skills shortage, over-regulation and exchange rate volatility lead the long list of risks causing anxiety for CEOs.

Africa’s CEOs’ are mostly concerned about socio-political and economic threats, with 41 per cent extremely concerned’ about uncertain economic growth, unemployment (33 per cent); populism (33 per cent), exchange rate volatility (42 per cent) and inadequate basic infrastructure (35 per cent).

Amongst business threats, 43 per cent of African CEOs said they were ‘extremely concerned’ about over regulation, 35 per cent cited cyber threats, and 45 per cent were ‘extremely concerned’ about the availability of key skills.


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