Propelling Africa in the age of 4IR


In the preamble to the 2019 World Economic Forum on Africa, it’s noted that at least 20 African countries will undergo elections this year. This is an important milestone in Africa’s evolution and one that can bring about significant progress, especially with Africa finding itself on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,
where change and progression will be inevitable. How fast and how meaningful this progress will be depends on a number of factors, not least of all voting forward-thinking governments into power across the continent – governments that can grasp the possibilities of digital and how it can advance their countries and Africa as a whole. 

It is not a government’s role to create jobs, but it is necessary to have the right political will to construct the frameworks that are necessary for growth across the board – whether environmental or economic. In today’s digital world, it’s also increasingly important for governments to collaborate with each other, particularly in
light of developments in cross-border payments and the like. Of equal standing is the need for the public and private sectors to work together in producing the solutions needed. 

The recently signed African Continental Free Trade Agreement is a case in point. While it took nearly two decades to structure and sign, the Agreement has finally put Africans in charge of their own development and – while there is still a technical minefield to navigate, as Africa faces problems of instability – the will is there to promote an exchange between the 54 countries that comprise the continent. 

Africa might be the newest kid on the block, but it is also one of the most resourceful and innovative. African ingenuity is legendary and, with the right frameworks in place, all Africans can shape their shared future – for Africa. 

For many Africans, that future is already here – as is 4IR – and our time for readying for the future is past. Today is what matters. How we see the future starts in the now and, right now, we need to ensure that all Africans can access information and knowledge – when and where they want to. 

Digital is changing the world around us by the second. From the types of goods and services produced, how they are accessed, and how we communicate with one another, to how we access excellent education via e-learning platforms, 4IR is making it possible for everyone on the continent to be included. It’s not utopia – yet – as many on the continent still do not have access to the infrastructure needed to be connected, many marginalised groups are deliberately excluded,

and the existing workforce fear they are being replaced by robots. Any discussion around 4IR and Africa, therefore, needs to take today’s unskilled labour force into account. How are we going to include them in the conversation going forward? What are the skills needed to safeguard income security in the now, and in the future?

WEF on Africa 2019 will bring together some of the continent’s brightest minds and change-makers to address the theme of “Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. I, for one, am looking forward to hearing how we can work together to ensure that Africa takes its rightful place in the digital world. I hope you will join me. 

Dr Iqbal Survé is Chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings


Remembering the human factor in automation

In today’s digital climate, customers are noisier than ever, especially when you don’t ask them to be. In a world dominated by the race to close the human-machine gap, finding the blind spots within the digital journey is imperative for marketers. With 40% of CMO’s stating that they spent most of their budgets on digital and social media (Cinman, 2018), the battle to meet the customer online, in time, is in full force. In just one year, customers’ likelihood to use digital channels for a service enquiry has increased almost 20%, making digital channels an expectation nexus for problem-solving and service for brands. Our customer is the only one who owns the experience, and they will remind you as soon as you fail to meet their nascent need.

As broken digital journeys and non-delivery exposes brands to unfettered critique on social media, the increased sense of hypervigilance amongst brand and sales teams is almost palpable.They are too afraid to make functional promises to their customers, and too cynical to make emotional connections with their prospects. Automation journeys in the B2B world are no different in their expectation to serve the customer the right knowledge at the right time. To help support lower operating costs, increasingly brands turn to online channels to help them create support services. But even before the customer has purchased, it is possible for a decision-maker to go on a journey with a brand without them even knowing it. As creators of content, copywriters and designers know that their piece must serve a multitude of different functions as it floats around the digital ecosystem pre- or during purchase. It must make the brand look knowledgeable, but not preachy. It must resonate with the audience, but not talk down to them. It must talk to their pain points, but always be positive. It must solve their problems, but not give too much away to the reader. It must make the brand look ‘good’, but it must be for the consumer. In trying to ‘act real’ online, brands either form a unique, outspoken voice that can comment on topical events (think Nandos), or they can become mockeries of themselves. trying to show a little ‘real’ human vulnerability and ending up making themselves brightly coloured targets for every woke and intersectional Millennial and their now duly informed parents out there (see Absa). 

These days, there is more than posturing and ‘fronting’ going on as brands try to behave like people online. There is also a subtle power dynamic that sits behind automation that advertising is only just getting its head around. When we design marketing automation campaigns there is a list of criteria that dictates which kinds of people will be moved along the purchase journey with supporting content along each touchpoint. For example, if you are a CFO employed in a large construction company, and we are aiming to sell you a business banking offering, our automation system will score you on your eligibility to receive follow-up content. Subtlety entrenched within this scoring system and content framework are often a lot of assumptions. In part, this is because we don’t want to send content about “the ‘S’ curve in construction and the flailing economy” to the Head of Distribution in a Food and Beverage company. For them, the content really isn’t relevant. However, this criterion also serves to weed out the ‘non buyers’ from the purchase journey. These exclusions could be anything from having the wrong designation to the wrong size of company. Understanding the people you are engaging with (not just ones you think you are) is at the core here. Without the right research, we may believe the CFO is the person we want to target, potentially ignoring the financial manager; the CFO’s personal assistant; and the personal accountant who heavily influences the CFO. 

Moreover, without understanding the real power dynamics at play within the company, and the deeply embedded emotional drivers of our target audience, our assumptions can create a lot of pointless content that resonates with no one. Our list of criteria needs to exclusive enough to be relevant, but inclusive enough to understand that very few companies make the buying decision alone or on a purely rational basis. In excluding the ‘silent buyers’ in the decision-making unit (DMU), we also eliminate our own ability to resonate with the key influencers, the buyers of the future and their latent challenges. To know the deep-seated fears and aspirations of our multitudinous target audience is to understand their humanity, their mercurial emotional landscape and their earnest ambitions. Rather than taking advantage of these deeply rooted truths, it is the job of marketers to become empaths (yes, I said it) and truth-tellers for their brand. B2B marketers looking to automation need to be enabling the DMU to be better business people. If helping your clients become better CFO’s, better line managers or better users is what you are aiming to do with your content – you are on the right track, and they will reward you for it. 

In Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks, automation is explored from the other side of the spectrum. Though it is often lauded as the efficiency silver-bullet, Eubanks shows that it can increase invisible divisions between the rich and poor, the privileged and the targeted. In our giddy haze, we cannot risk forgetting that in automating a journey, your function as a marketer changes to that of a surveillance tool. Eubanks’ book reminds us that we are responsible for human experiences through automated channels. While the intent may be pure, outsourcing decision-making to a machine can prioritise machine input at the expense of humane output. Thus, we need to be mindful that the rules and regulating effects of automation do exist in the real world, where embodied intelligence’ is realised and experienced – not just in the online universe of good intentions. As Eubanks notions, the first step towards creating more meaningfully automated experiences for people is realising that they come with your set of values, assumptions and beliefs locked in them. Automation is a repeated and adapted blueprint of boundaries and portals set up for engagement, which strongly mirrors culture. Thus, to respectfully and dynamically engage with the real buyer cultures at hand is an ethical responsibility of marketers today. In speaking to the human in the automation wheel – we must remember to bring our humanity with us, in order to resonate with theirs.

Author, Claire Denham-Dyson is Head Anthropologist at Demographica. 

5 free apps for getting your morning started

Wake up! And then get ready for the day ahead.
Mornings aren’t for everyone. But even if you never become a fan, you might as well leverage modern technology in order to make the most of them. Here are some great free apps sure to get you out of bed, up to speed, and ready to tackle the day.

Heavy sleeper? This app’s got you covered . . . unfortunately. Alarmy (Android, Apple) features several truly awful methods for making sure you don’t hit snooze—or, at least, you don’t hit snooze easily. Super loud alarms? Check. Being forced to solve math problems? Check. Having to take a picture of something specific? Check. If you’re not into psychologically browbeating yourself, there are gentler settings as well, such as waking to music, gradual alarms, and other, more humane options.
You’re an influencer of sorts, yes? Then consolidate your email, calendars, and social media in once place with BlackBerry Hub+ Inbox (Android), which indeed comes to us from the one-time titan of smartphones. The app makes it easy to check, respond to, and snooze messages from popular email platforms, plus Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, WeChat, and others. It’s free and fully functional for 30 days, after which you’ll be shown ads here and there unless you subscribe.

Look, you don’t need to read every news story thoroughly, but a quick glance at headlines can go a long way toward keeping you informed. To that end, Google News (Android, Apple, Web) is a pretty easy way to wrap your head around the day’s headlines. The mobile apps, especially, do a good job of showing you the top five stories going on at the moment, while the web version lets you dig into various sections and features a bit more easily.
When it’s finally time to start getting ready, the nearly limitless audio buffet from TuneIn (Android, Apple, Web) offers streams of more than 100,000 radio stations from around the world and access to popular podcasts so you never run out of listenables. The free version is plenty feature-rich, while the $10/month or $100/year premium version adds streams from sporting events and news outlets.
Now that you’re ready to face the day, take a couple minutes to put a simple checklist together. The team behind the excellent Wunderlist has built the also-excellent Microsoft To-Do (Android, Apple, Web), which lets you quickly add and check off tasks, syncs with Outlook, and makes it easy to break larger tasks into smaller chunks. Sharing lists with others is easy, too, for those times you need to delegate.

SA expats: Don’t get caught out with unpaid tax


Working overseas can often lead one to being caught out with unpaid tax. Whether you’re a young graduate teaching English in Asia, a 50-something homemaker doing caring work in Britain, or a highly skilled professional, it’s important to know what the South African Revenue Services (SARS) expects if you’re working abroad. As a South African citizen and tax resident, you are potentially liable to pay tax even if you’re not living in the country. By understanding some basic tax rules, you can avoid inadvertently breaking some laws, and can also judge whether you might already owe SARS a payment. This is particularly relevant if you’re earning good money abroad, as new laws become effective from March next year, closing some lucrative loopholes.

Personal finance education website Justmoney, with its tax partner TaxTim, offers three case studies: 

Case Study One
Mark, 23, plans to teach English in Vietnam for two years and hopes to earn R20 000 per month. A recent graduate, he has not yet worked formally or paid tax. Although he might think that earning an income from an overseas source isn’t taxable back home, in this instance it is not necessarily the case. The South African taxation system works on a residence-based tax system, meaning we’re taxed on worldwide income. Under current law, Mark’s foreign income may not be subject to South Africa tax if he spends at least 183 days (roughly 26 weeks, or about six months) of a consecutive 12-month period outside of South Africa teaching English through his foreign employer. At least 60 of these days must be continuous. Under new laws, effective from 1 March 2020, South African residents who spend more than 183 days working outside the country will be subject to South African tax on foreign employment income over R1m. Mark won’t earn enough to fall into this tax bracket, but it is still important for him to register with SARS and file a tax return on money that he will earn next year even if he is not liable to pay tax. The good news for Mark is that doing your tax online has been made easier: Innovations in South African Revenue Services (SARS) such as eFiling and the MobiApp, makes it simpler to register and navigate, meaning Mark can now register with SARS eFiling. 

Case Study Two
Mary, 55, has undertaken contract care work in the UK for seven months a year, for three years. Her accommodation and food are covered and R35 000 per month earnings have managed to sustain her family well (children have left the family nest, but Mary’s husband Peter is an invalid). Mary has not completed a SARS tax return over the past few years and is concerned that Brexit may affect her. Under current law, Mary’s foreign income may not be subject to South African tax if she spends at least 183 days (roughly 26 weeks, or about 6 months) of a consecutive 12-month period outside of SA.  At least 60 of these days must be continuous or unbroken, however, so Mary should think twice before flying back often between caring stints. New laws will not affect Mary as she does not earn over R1 million, but it is still important for her to register with SARS and file a tax return. Mary should meet with a qualified tax consultant for some advice. She may already be paying some tax through the British agency that finds her placements. She could claim expenses against her income, for example the costs of air tickets between South Africa and Britain, and transport to reach her place of work. This may be relevant to UK tax law, but as she will not be paying tax in South Africa it would not be in SA. At this stage Brexit negotiations are unlikely to affect Mary, but her tax advisor will keep her updated. 

Case Study Three
Sipho, 46, is a senior financial services manager in Hong Kong. Sipho earns R4 million a year plus a discretionary bonus that is around R1million a year. He has been working overseas for three years and plans to return home in two years’ time. Sipho is the type of taxpayer who will be affected by the new law. He will have to declare all of his Hong Kong income in South Africa and will be taxed on his foreign earnings exceeding R1m. As he is earning well above the rand equivalent of R1,5m, he will have to pay tax on up to 45% of his US earnings, in South Africa. He will be able to deduct the foreign tax he has paid so as not to be taxed on the same income twice, however he will no longer reap the benefits of the lower Hong Kong tax rate. Sipho may decide he does not want to return to South Africa after all and may be advised to financially emigrate, which means he will get to keep his South African citizenship and passport, but will be emigrating from a tax point of view. This is a formal SARS and South African Reserve Bank process. SARS will treat Sipho as if he is selling all his assets in South Africa – even if he isn’t – and he will need to pay tax on that amount as capital gains tax for all assets sold except for property.


7 economic trends set to dominate the 2020s


From preventative medicine to smart mobility and 5G — the 2020s will see significant trends driving global growth over the next decade.

The Roaring Twenties of nearly 100 years ago was defined by a surge of consumerism, a brightly revitalised global economy and the arrival of the concept of mass culture. It was also a time of significant political and social change — an undercurrent that charged conversations and technological innovation. Today, the world awaits the 2020s, with eager anticipation and much excitement, as a decade likely to be defined as much by further leaps in technological innovation as by its socially influenced political and economic upheavals. The resultant landscape will inevitably require a much more comprehensive level of understanding to effectively capture the growth opportunities.  

“There are seven major themes that will drive global growth over the next decade,” says Jonathan Sieff, Senior Portfolio Manager at Sasfin Wealth. “These will change the way we live, the way we travel, how we engage and collaborate, and how we work. Each of these themes should form part of any forward-thinking investment portfolio to ensure it is capable of benefiting from these specific market forces.”

Healthcare Innovation
The cost of medical solutions has reduced exponentially over the years – the complex process of mapping the human genome cost over US$ 1bn when it first emerged, but by the mid 2020’s it will be mapped for less than a few hundred dollars. This has huge ramifications for preventative medicine as doctors can use genome mapping to assess cell mutations and invest in preventative care that could mitigate the health impacts of obesity, cancer and so much more. This will be complemented by further advancements in robotic surgery, preventative diagnostic equipment, improved education and medical intervention techniques.

Smart Mobility
This involves combining materials like lithium and cobalt with metalloids, such as silicon, or innovative organic compounds to produce the batteries of the future — “new technologies required to drive the concept of e-mobility forward,” says Sieff. “The next decade will see significant refinements to connected vehicles and mobility solutions that will fundamentally change the way we travel, such as autonomous vehicles that bypass fossil fuels entirely.”

Internet-of-Things (IoT)
This buzzword, and its enabler, 5G involves digitally animating the physical world using a vast array of devices, with 5G enhancing the speed and reliability of connections across the globe. For now, 5G penetration is still relatively low globally. For example, the concept of the smart home has yet to entrench itself as a modern living standard. Only 3% of homes in the United States are smart homes, with seamless communication between devices to enhance quality of life. The next few years should see this concept become increasingly accepted and entrenched as the costs of internet access, mobility and technology reduce further.

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Robotics and AI will continue to have a huge impact on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). “Technology and cost efficiencies will redefine consumer robotics and improve quality of living by automating a number of previously menial human functions, according to Sieff.  AI-assisted diagnostics will be able to provide personalised care and improved treatment outcomes, and by considering all available evidence, deliver predictive analytics to detect hidden factors and reduce side effects through personalised drugs.

Digital Entertainment and eCommerce
In terms of digital entertainment, “online content and how people access and aggregate their information will continue to innovate,” explains Sieff. “Online streaming TV is fast replacing cable and satellite delivery and this trend will continue to accelerate.  Alongside this trend, the world of advertising is clearly trending towards programmatic advertising, which will have a powerful impact on personalisation and eCommerce growth.” The 2020s will see the omnichannel retail world continue to shift on its axis to become increasingly accessible and relevant to the consumer. This will be particularly obvious in developing countries, such as South Africa, where the online market remains limited but is now showing signs of significant growth.

Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity
Arguably the penultimate theme of the 2020s, the cloud computing and cybersecurity market is growing exponentially and is extremely competitive. It will be defined by continuous innovation, embedded cybersecurity, and privacy of information. These factors will influence which organisations thrive and which wither over the decade as those that adapt will likely grow alongside cloud demand.

Clean Energy
Sustainable energy will dominate in the 2020s,” says Sieff. “There is an increasing awareness of the need to live more sustainably and to invest into renewable power innovation. Innovation has become a necessity, given the environmentally harmful nature of fossil fuels over and above their finite nature. It has also improved the relative cost advantage for renewable options as population growth and ongoing urbanisation continue to drive the increased consumption of electricity, particularly in a world of more interconnected devices.” 




DataProphet Awarded as Technology Pioneer by World Economic Forum


DataProphet, a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing, was selected among hundreds of candidates as one of the World Economic Forum’s “Technology Pioneers”. DataProphet was founded in 2014 and has since modernised manufacturing plants through advanced deep learning, resulting in significant, practical impact on the factory floor. 

The World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers are early to growth-stage companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and are poised to have a significant impact on business and society.

This year’s Tech Pioneers are emerging innovators from a diverse set of industries. These firms are shaping the future by advancing technologies such as AI, IoT, robotics, blockchain, biotechnology and many more. The focus areas of this year’s Tech Pioneers, include agtech, smart cities, cleantech, supply chain, manufacturing, cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles and drones.

The diversity of these companies extends to their leadership as well, as 25% of 2019 Tech Pioneers are female led. The firms also come from many different regions beyond the United States and Silicon Valley. In fact, this year’s class of 56 firms represent every continent except Antarctica. The full list of technology pioneers can be found here.

Following its selection as Technology Pioneer, DataProphet’s CEO and Co-Founder, Frans Cronje, participated in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions. This meeting, also dubbed “Summer Davos” was held in Dalian, China earlier this month. Many Pioneers will also attend the Annual Meeting in Davos, in January 2020, and continue to contribute to Forum initiatives over the next two years. 

“We’re excited to welcome DataProphet to this year’s innovative class of technology pioneers,” says Fulvia Montresor, Head of Technology Pioneers at the World Economic Forum. “DataProphet and its fellow pioneers are leaders in using novel technologies to transform their industries. We see great potential for these next generation companies to shape solutions to global challenges and improve society for years to come.”

“It’s a huge achievement to be acknowledged as a pioneer by the World Economic Forum,” said Frans. “It is great to receive affirmation that our AI technology is unique and valuable when it comes to reducing defects and improving processes for manufacturers. We are excited to partner with the Forum to shape the future of manufacturing.”

The Technology Pioneers were selected by a selection committee of more than 59 academics, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and corporate executives. The committee based its decisions on criteria including innovation, potential impact and leadership. Past recipients include Airbnb, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Palantir Technologies, Spotify, TransferWise, Twitter and Wikimedia.


Lightyear Unveils the World’s First Long-range Solar Car


Lightyear, a pioneer in clean mobility, introduced the first long-range solar car today. The prototype was presented to investors, customers, partners and press at dawn in Katwijk, the Netherlands. “This moment represents a new era of driving,” said Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear.

Lightyear was founded in 2016 by alumni of Solar Team Eindhoven, which won the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Since the launch, Lightyear has received awards, grants and support from key investors. This allowed them to develop a prototype for the first long-range solar car in just two years. Lightyear One has been engineered to optimise efficiency and safety. It has a longer battery range than its competitors and charges whenever it’s in the sun.
“Climate change is such a frightening development that it’s almost paralysing,” remarked Hoefsloot. “We decided to do the opposite; as engineers, we believed we could do something. Lightyear One represents an opportunity to change mobility for the better.” 

And this is just the beginning. “Since new technology has a high unit cost, we have to start in an exclusive market. The next models we plan to develop will have a significantly lower purchase price. In addition, future models will be provided to autonomous and shared car fleets, so the purchase price can be divided amongst a large group of users. Combined with the low operating costs of the vehicle, we aim to provide premium mobility for a low price per kilometre.”

Lightyear claims drivers could go up to 20,000 kilometres a year on the sun, depending on the climate. The fast-growing company was founded in 2016 and now has more than 100 employees. The team is a mix of young talent and experience from the automotive industry, including former employees of Tesla and Ferrari.


Resolution Circle names Gideon Potgieter as Chief Executive Officer


Resolution Circle has announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Gideon Potgieter as Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors effective immediately. Potgieter previously held the position of Group Senior Manager Business Development and has served as Interim CEO since May this year.

“During the time of renewing the focus of Resolution Circle in support of technical professional education, I’m pleased that Mr Gideon Potgieter has been selected as CEO. This selection brings both the element of continuity and change – this remains helpful for a transition.” says Prof Saurabh Sinha, Resolution Circle’s Chairman of the Interim Board and UJ Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation.

Gideon studied electronics obtaining his National Diploma and later his National Higher Diploma at the institution that has now been amalgamated into the University of Johannesburg. He later completed his MBA at the Rotterdam School of Management at the Erasmus University. Gideon has worked in several industries ranging from High-Tech Electronics and Information Technology to Automotive, Education and Medical Insurance in South Africa and abroad.

Most recently he became involved with the product and technology development for startups in the Bio-Tech, Clean-Tech and High-Tech areas through Resolution Circle.

Since joining Resolution Circle in 2014, Gideon has spearheaded major strategy and technical shifts across the company’s portfolio of products and services.

He has also been fundamental in redefining the company’s core offering, which is professional technical training and programmes for market readiness, targeted at learners from TVET, comprehensive universities, e.g. UJ, and universities of technology. The company also offers skills development modules that are not necessarily linked to a qualification and short learning courses in Technology like Arduino, Fibre optic, Programmable Logic Control (PLC) and Solar PV. The current Arduino and PLC courses are building blocks of the Industry 4.0 revolution.

Having started his career in electronics, then moving onto computer hardware and networking. Gideon has followed the same path as the company’s interns, so he understands their needs. He also had a great understanding of the the needs of the industry.

“During my time at Resolution Circle I have become involved in the product and technology development of other companies, and I have learned a great deal about the start-up and entrepreneurship scene in South Africa,” says Gideon, “I believe in participative management – I encourage and appreciate the input of employees and look forward to working with and leading my team in taking our strategy forward.”

“The opportunity ahead for Resolution Circle is vast, but to seize it we must focus clearly and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.” Gideon adds, “I would rather try something and fail than not trying at all.”

 Speaking on behalf of the board, Prof Saurabh Sinha says, “We believe Gideon has the right operational and communication skills and leadership abilities to deliver improved execution and financial performance.”

About Resolution Circle

Resolution Circle is a training hub that prides itself on providing experiential learning opportunities to undergraduate electrical and mechanical engineering students from universities of technology, practical in-service project training, various short-learning and candidacy programmes applicable to the ever-changing world of engineering and engineering technology. We are a University of Johannesburg initiative.

For more information visit: www.resolutioncircle.co.za


Innovative Staffing Solutions trains 2 000 drivers ahead of Transport Month


October is Transport Month and a reminder that a well-developed and properly maintained transport infrastructure is critical for economic sustainability and growth in South Africa. This year’s theme – Transport, the Heartbeat of Economic Growth and Social Development – underscores this reality.

Innovative Staffing Solutions Managing Director, Arnoux Maré, says transport is a key contributor to the country’s GDP. “The sector is an important driver for development and job creation in the country. Notably, transport GDP reached an all-time high of just over R 27.1 million in the first quarter of 2018.”

Maré is however concerned about October’s fuel increase and its impact on the transport industry and job creation in this particular sector. The department of energy has attributed the increase to the weakening rand exchange rate, the increased prices of crude oil and the import prices of petroleum. “The fuel increase is the biggest in the country’s history and could potentially have catastrophic implications as it will extract a further R2.5 billion a month in transport costs from an economy that is already on the ropes.” 

Since starting his business seven years ago, Maré has grown the outsourcing company’s driver complement from a handful of drivers in 2011 to more than 5 500 drivers in 2018. “We outsource drivers to clients in various industries, which means we need to make sure they are competent, well-trained and happy to be working for us.”  

This year, Innovative Staffing Solutions invested in two trucks dedicated for truck driver training. “We couldn’t expect our clients to relinquish their trucks for training purposes, so we decided to buy two trucks – a Renault Kerax and a Volvo – to allow us to train truck drivers on a daily basis.”

This year, more than 2 000 drivers have undergone training. “Advanced truck driver training is conducted by certified trainers and each driver undergoes three to four hours of training. The trainers spend one-on-one time with drivers to test their driving skills and brush up on their road regulation knowledge,” says Maré.

He points out that truck drivers have an enormous responsibility. “Not only are they responsible for driving heavy, expensive vehicles that can cause extensive damage if they crash, they are also responsible for carrying valuable loads from one destination to the next. So it is imperative that they are highly competent and display a high degree of reliability and accountability.”

With more companies beginning to realise the benefits of outsourcing their non-core functions, Maré expects his driver complement to grow significantly over the next few months. “We believe we are making a significant contribution to the transport industry by creating thousands of jobs and making sure our drivers are well trained and fully supported.”

This support includes making sure they are getting competitive salaries and other benefits. “Earlier this year, we negotiated an excellent deal for our drivers with one of the major medical aid players in the country. This was a ground-breaking move, because historically, drivers have either not had medical aid or been on below-par medical aid packages,” adds Maré.

Innovative Staffing Solutions also manages drivers schedules carefully to reduce driver fatigue and has advanced fleet technology monitoring systems in place to reduce the chance of accidents and ensure drivers and their cargo get to their destinations on time. 

Maré says Transport Month, which was initiated in 2005 at the Transport Lekotla, is an important reminder for South African citizens of the important role transport plays in their lives. “Our transport infrastructure is like the body’s circulatory system – it feeds all aspects of the economy and without it we would not be able to grow and thrive.”


Benefits of AI

How AI is addressing grand challenges across the African continent

Singularity University co-founder, and renowned Futurist, Ray Kurzweil, said: “We have the opportunity in the decades ahead to make major strides in addressing the grand challenges of humanity. AI will be the pivotal technology in achieving this progress. We have a moral imperative to realize this promise while controlling the peril. It won’t be the first time we’ve succeeded in doing this.”

As we gain a better understanding of the scope, and depth of possibilities opened up by AI-based technologies, we’re starting to see some impressive developments that are addressing grand challenges in the areas of healthcare, education and agriculture across the African continent.  

AI in healthcare 

The African continent is in dire need of better healthcare. Many of the continent’s doctors seek work abroad, there is a prevalence of fake medicines and practitioners, and patients living in remote and rural areas have limited access to clinics. Even in the busy cities, available hospitals are often understaffed and under-equipped, and simply cannot cope with the volume of people they need to treat on a daily basis. This overload is exacerbated by local clinics transferring patients to larger hospitals due to a lack of skills and medicine.

In South Africa, there are a number of new health-tech platforms that are working hard to improve the medical sector. Essential Medical Guidance (EMGuidance) is a mobile, and web-based clinical support platform for medical professionals that provides instant access to locally relevant medicines, information, clinical guidelines, tools and care coordination information. A lite version of the platform is also available in eight other African countries. Their recently launched free offering for public and private hospitals, is already being used by Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg. It lets hospitals publish their own guidelines, medicine, formularies and call rosters in the app, which creates huge efficiencies for the hospitals using it.

Cape-based start-up, Aviro Health, is focused on creating digital health solutions that enable everyone to access high-quality healthcare. Their flagship product, Ithaka, is a mobile platform that empowers patients to navigate healthcare systems and manage their medical journeys for chronic conditions such as diabetes or HIV.

Nurses in primary care settings are already using the company’s ART Treatment Mentor to help treat HIV patients, while UCT pharmacology uses it as part of an HIV hotline. Not just for South African’s the app is currently in use by Jhpiego, a public health group in the Ivory Coast.

Kenya’s ConnectMed mDaktari app enables patients to use video links like Skype to consult a doctor either once-off about a condition, or to receive continuous support for a chronic disease. Understanding that not all patients will have access to personal mobile devices, the company plans to roll out physical computer stations in pharmacies and cyber cafes to enable access for all. 

Through the service, patients are able to get a diagnosis, prescriptions, sick-notes, and referrals should they be needed. In Rwanda, Babyl Health provides a comparable solution.

ConnectMed’s users can be treated for minor ailments such as cold and flu symptoms, coughs, sinus infections, sore throat, urinary tract infections, gastric issues such as heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, vomiting or diarrhoea, and can receive sexual health advice and contraception, and address children’s health and common illnesses, as well as anxiety and minor depression, among others. 

The ConnectMed team is currently using AI technology to develop a Symptom Checker that advises patients on if and how urgently they need medical care based on their symptoms and history;  Zipline, whose drones are powered by AI technology, is working directly with Rwanda’s National Centre for Blood Transfusion, making as many as 150 deliveries of lifesaving blood platelets to 21 transfusing facilities daily, in western Rwanda. 

The possibilities arising from the use of drones, including the delivery of vaccines and other life-saving medicines, are a game-changer on the continent.
SOPHiA Genetics’ clinical genomics solution is being integrated into the clinical workflow of hospitals in Cameroon, Morocco and South Africa.  SOPHiA is helping to analyse patients’ genomic profiles enabling doctors to offer better diagnosis and care.

Digital health solutions have certainly moved passed the early offerings which were predominantly focused on being able to book appointments online. Today, across the continent, patient healthcare records and history are digitally captured so they’re available to be accessed by whichever medical practitioner can see the patient on that particular day.  
AI for precision agriculture 

While much of Africa still uses traditional farming methods, companies across the globe are using AI to develop autonomous robots that are capable of handling essential agriculture tasks such as harvesting. 

Deep-learning algorithms are helping to analyse drone, and software-captured data, providing valuable insights for crop maintenance and soil health; and machine learning models are being used to predict environmental impacts on crop yield.

Innovations in the African Agri-tech sector have increased over the past two years, particularly in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Advancements in this space are helping farmers to access affordable, modern farming technologies that are helping to improve productivity and income. 

Disrupt Africa’s Agrinnovating for Africa: Exploring the African Agri-Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, records 82 agri-tech start-ups in operation across Africa by the start of 2018, with 52 per cent of these ventures launched in the past two years. 

Today, cell phones applications are enabling farmers in many ways, empowering them with information such as local weather updates, allowing them to monitor soil moisture, or alert them to potential plant disease and pest infestations and how to treat them. 

Kenya’s UjuziKilimo provides farmers with real-time, actionable, sensor-based data coupled with advice on fertilizers, seeds, weather and best practices to ensure they practice productive and sustainable agriculture. The platform uses machine learning, and data analytics, coupled with a comprehensive agricultural database and precise farm data, to provide detailed insights for their farmers and service providers.

In South African aerial data-analytics company, Aerobotics, is using drones and machine learning to enable farmers in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the UK to better manage their crops, and detect early stage problems. 

A positive view of the future

AI and other exponential technologies do have the power to solve some of Africa’s grand challenges, and we should approach the potential with a positive view as the AI will enable us as humans to do and be much more just like electricity did in the industrial revolution. It’s exciting to see a number of AI start-ups in South Africa and across the continent. Now is the time for more constructive conversations, for the exchange of ideas, and for more collaborations between futurists, technologists, entrepreneurs and innovators. AI offers the chance to overcome obstacles, and create new marketplaces that will benefit everyone.