FILE PHOTO: Logo of German industrial group Siemens is seen in Zurich

JOHANNESBURG  - Digitalisation offers Africa the opportunity to accelerate growth and rapidly expand struggling economies, but decision-makers must get strategies in place quickly in order to succeed, industrial manufacturing company Siemens said on Tuesday.

Experts say the urban population in Africa is expected to grow to 56 percent in 2050 from 35 percent in 2010, and this rapid urbanisation will require robust infrastructure to ensure expanding cities are hubs of growth and commerce.

A report put together by Siemens in conjunction with Frost & Sullivan, outlined the current state of key industries across the continent, identifying challenges and opportunities with a focus on water, manufacturing, mining and minerals as well as food and beverage.

The study found that the adoption of digital technologies was expected to remain varied across industries, markets and geographies, with the impact favouring businesses and industries that seek relevance and increasing contribution in international markets in addition to existing domestic markets.

"While advanced analytics and digitalisation are witnessing growing adoption across certain industry sectors, such as the automotive sector, there is a real opportunity for adoption of these across industry sectors such as the mining and food & beverage industry which are significant contributors to major African economies," it said.

"Manufacturing, while the most mature in its transformation and adoption of digital technologies in Africa, remains a marginal player struggling to make a bigger impact on country GDPs (gross domestic product). The question governments need to ask themselves is how they align a ‘here-and-now’ emphasis on job creation with the necessary focus on digitalisation."

It said expenditure in water infrastructure had been low compared to the global average and had also been accompanied by poor water utility management.

The mining industry had seen subdued investment, rising cost pressures and increasing labour issues, the report said, and a combination of mechanisation, efficient extraction of resources and better use of data could make it easier for mine operators to cut costs and create leaner and more efficient operations.

"As such, the successful incorporation of technology will be possible through collaborative efforts of technology providers, industry, research institutes and organizations that work for uplifting the mining industry," it said.

By providing high levels of infrastructure and power supply, Africa would be able to attract the necessary investment across various industry sectors.

Siemens said the findings from the study were just a starting point which it hoped would begin a dialogue and provide a framework to some of the opportunities existing for Africa.

- African News Agency (ANA)