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OP-ED: Digitalization is the Key to SME Success in 2024 — Jessica Harvey

If SMEs are going to drive sustainable economic growth in 2024, digital transformation isn’t a nice to have, it’s crucial for success.

Story Highlights
  • An empowered SME sector is a critical growth engine for the economic development of a country.
  • 64% of local SMEs say that they believe e-commerce will have a positive impact on their business.
  • One of the foremost challenges SMEs face lies in identifying a starting point for their digital transformation journey.
  • There are many reasons to digitalize your business, not the least of which are the near-future implications of the latest technologies.

If small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are going to drive sustainable economic growth in 2024, digital transformation isn’t a nice to have, it’s crucial for success, says Jessica Harvey, Business Unit Manager, Digital On Demand, a division of Tarsus on Demand.

An empowered SME sector is a critical growth engine for the economic development of a country. As such, the rise of the digital era is propelling excitement and anticipation in this market sector, in that digitization makes it easy for these smaller businesses to broaden their scope and expand their operations.

The adoption of digital payment solutions is also evidently on the rise in countries like South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and even in Uganda significantly enhancing business operations. According to the 2023 SME Confidence Index, approximately 64% of local SMEs say that they believe e-commerce will have a positive impact on their business. This reflects a growing trend towards digital solutions in the business landscape. The survey highlights the top areas where SMEs in Africa require support, with some 88% suggesting they need help digitalizing their businesses.

This is a key reason Tarsus launched its Digital on Demand (DOD) unit, which aims to assist with the education and acceleration of the digitalization process for SMB businesses throughout Africa. DOD has created a platform, the Digital Business Hub, which features cloud-based solutions designed to solve challenges experienced by typical businesses using technology and cloud-based solutions.

A digital transformation vision

One of the foremost challenges SMEs face lies in identifying a starting point for their digital transformation journey. DOD understands this problem, providing a roadmap specifically tailored to both the unique needs, and the future aspirations, of each business.

It is critical that SMEs begin this journey posthaste, as digital transformation itself is no longer a competitive edge, so much as it is merely a ticket to the game. Today, many companies will only work with you if your processes align with their business — meaning a lack of digitalization creates the risk of losing clients instead.

Those SMEs that have not begun digitalizing, or that plan to in the new year, focus on building a brand new business, to ensure they are digitally native. This includes creating automated processes, so the business can start gathering data — the lifeblood of the digital world — from the word go.

There are many reasons to digitalize your business, not the least of which are the near-future implications of the latest technologies. For example, in 2024 the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be a key focus for many businesses in the SME arena.

Looking to the future

By implementing AI and machine learning, SMEs can reduce the load on limited personnel resources, enabling the business to scale without having to increase headcounts or overheads. SMEs should not view AI as a threat to business, but rather as an opportunity to scale their business at a reduced cost.

There are two other big opportunities for growth in 2024 — the first is by fostering a strong focus on micro-learning, which is more about learning skill sets and knowledge bases, than obtaining formal certifications. Secondly, it is vital to embrace sustainability, as this will increasingly inform customers’ decisions, with the modern consumer wanting to do business with others who are equally focused on sustainability.

At Tarsus on Demand, they envision being at the forefront of the African digital narrative for SMEs, facilitating seamless transformation and promoting growth and innovation within this vital sector. This is because they recognize that the impact of SME digitalization is far-reaching, promoting sustainable economic growth, inclusivity, and resilience against economic headwinds.

Editor’s Note: This article is by Jessica Harvey, Business Unit Manager at Digital On Demand

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