Accenture and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) have launched a whitepaper on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to impact the macro environment. Themed “Responsible AI,” the whitepaper explores associated challenges and opportunities faced by organisations.
“There’s no longer any doubt that artificial intelligence has the ability to amplify growth for companies. So from a business point of view, it makes sense,” notes Rory Moore, Innovation Lead at Accenture and one of the report’s contributors. “But then you also need to keep ethics in mind and be socially responsible. In a market like South Africa, these issues are particularly prominent and pertinent.”
Given the fact that the traditional factors of production – capital and labour – are showing declining ability to drive economic growth, Moore notes, a new factor of production – AI – may provide the necessary kick-start.
Intelligent automation, labour, capital augmentation and innovation diffusion are all routes through which the technology has the ability to drive growth, the report explains. AI can both automate complex physical tasks and free up people from more mundane work to imagine, create and innovate.
Dr Jeff Chen, lecturer at GIBS and co-author of the whitepaper says, “AI is not a buzzword. These hyper-intelligent algorithms, coupled with innovative business models, will ineluctably change the customer dynamics and the modus operandi of many South African organisations.”
Prior research conducted by Accenture and referenced in the report notes that AI has the potential to boost rates of profitability by an average of 38 percent by 2035, double economic growth rates and lead to an economic boost of USD14 trillion across 16 industries in 12 economies by the same date. “Leaders across all sectors must work together to ensure their organisations can fully leverage the power of AI responsibly and promote inclusive growth of our nation,” Chen adds.
Critically, however, Moore notes that organisations need to adopt a people-centric mindset when thinking about applying AI. “South Africa is at an inflection point… if we get it (AI) right, there is an opportunity to stimulate growth.” While concerns regarding AI’s effect on unemployment should not be discounted, he explains, the technology also allows for the better deployment of human resources and the redirection of human intellect to more value-adding areas of business.
Further benefits of the application of AI in a business context include the generation of real-time insights, the formulation of foresight through predictive analytics, the automation of manual processes and the move from assisted intelligence to assisted alliances. Further AI-based opportunities identified by the authors include assistance to human decision making, the enablement of better business intelligence and improved customer-centrism.
The importance of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in driving economic growth and development in the province was the primary focus of the Old Mutual Provincial Management Board Positive Futures stakeholder function session held in Bloemfontein on 25 July.
“By increasing the number of successful entrepreneurs who start, grow and sustain their businesses and create jobs, we can help drive sustainable economic growth and benefit a broad base of South Africans,” explained Silas Sebiloane: Regional Manager of Old Mutual Free State.
“Through the hybrid funding model that the Masisizane Fund (an Old Mutual initiative) developed in partnership with the Old Mutual Foundation, we connect SMMEs with experienced entrepreneurs and professionals to provide advice, financial and management support, as well as opportunities.”
The promotion and development of entrepreneurship is one of the priorities identified in the South African National Development Plan as well as the national programmes of various other African countries. In the current climate of economic uncertainty, the SMME sector is regarded as the engine of growth that is essential in creating jobs and employment in the country.
The Masisizane Fund was established by Old Mutual specifically to stimulate sustainable growth through the promotion of entrepreneurship, and the development and support of SMMEs. Since its inception 10 years ago in 2007 it has disbursed around R400 million in loans in the three high-impact sectors contributing to the socio-economic transformation in rural, peri-urban and township areas in South Africa: agribusiness, franchising, supply chain and manufacturing.
Old Mutual’s Free State Provincial Management Board engaged with key stakeholders to discuss the challenges that South African entrepreneurs continue to face. These range from limited access to finance and poor infrastructure to low levels of research and development, burdensome labour laws, inefficient government bureaucracy, high levels of crime and a lack of access to markets.
“Financial education is the first step towards addressing many of these challenges,” said Sebiloane. “It’s the gateway to financial inclusion. Equipped with advice, growing numbers of people and communities can make informed decisions for themselves and their families when using financial services.”
Since Old Mutual established its ‘On the Money’ financial education department in 2007, more than 589 808 people have been reached through face to face workshops held for communities, and employees in the public and private sector. Of these, 8969 were from the Free State.