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Digital transformation expert lays out 10 actions for African media

By Michelle Palmer Jones


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


Digital transformation is the reinvention of an organisation through the use of digital technologies. 

“You must be reinventing one or more aspects of your organisation using any of these technologies,” Dr. Anderson Uvie-Emegbo, senior fellow with China Europe International Business School in Nigeria, told attendees of Wednesday’s Africa News Media Summit. “If you are not reinventing one or more of these aspects, you’re just thinking in the box. That’s not digital transformation.

Dr. Anderson Uvie-Emegbo shared these 10 actions needed for digital transformation.
Dr. Anderson Uvie-Emegbo shared these 10 actions needed for digital transformation.

Uvie-Emegbo shared these 10 actionable insight to the 613 Summit attendees from 62 countries:

1. Remind ourselves it’s consumer before product  

Uvie-Emegbo asked attendees which is the more appropriate question to ask a potential consumer before developing a service or product:

  1. If I build it, will you buy it? 
  2. When it comes to ‘x,’ what problems or frustrations do you have?

“If you chose A, it means you put the product before the consumer. Essentially you are saying we think we know what the customer wants, so we built what we think they need and we hope that they love it,” Uvie-Emegbo said. 

He believes the better approach is to solve a problem or frustration the consumer is already experiencing. For example, a 2014 Pew Research Center study showed the number of Africans who have cell phones, smartphones, or no cell phones. The results in Kenya showed only 15% of people had a smartphone and 67% had a cell phone but it was not Internet capable.

A Kenyan company used the study to launch a service that allowed people to book a cab using SMS. The company essentially increased its market size from 15% to 82% by solving a problem consumers were already facing, Uvie-Emegbo said.

2. Revamp our understanding of consumer behaviour

Uvie-Emegbo wants media companies to understand what consumers care about. He gave another example out of Kenya of a Reuters study that showed 75.6% of Kenyans are concerned about what is real or fake on the Internet. This study led to the launch of a media fact-checking site in Kenya.  

“My question to you is: How well are you applying your knowledge of the consumer?” Uvie-Emegbo asked. 

3. Remodel our customer journey

Uvie-Emegbo looked at a digital report from 2021 that compared the traffic of top media sites to the traffic of non-media sites in several countries in Africa. The report showed on average, users were spending over twice the amount of time on non-media sites than media sites and eight times the number of pages per visit. Uvie-Emegbo believes to reverse this trend, media companies must focus on driving conversion and improving consumer experience.

A 2021 study found on average, users were spending over twice the amount of time on non-media sites than media sites and eight times the number of pages per visit.
A 2021 study found on average, users were spending over twice the amount of time on non-media sites than media sites and eight times the number of pages per visit.

“To drive conversion, we need to take our visitors and turn them into subscribers, turn our subscribers into fans, and eventually turn our fans into fanatics.” Uvie-Emegbo said, “In order to turn fans into fanatics, we have to improve our user experience.”

An example of how to improve the consumer journey, Uvie-Emegbo said, comes from a radio station in Ghana, My Joy FM. In 2012, listeners were sending in comments via SMS, but only a handful of them were being read on air. The station decided to enable the SMS portal to be visible on the Web site. Listeners could then go online to see their comments and see others’ comments. 

4. Reframe our value proposition

Another question Uvie-Emegbo wants companies to ask is: What is the value proposition of your company and does it stand the customer test going forward?

He used an example of a 2007 Forbes article that claimed cell phone company Nokia could be considered the most successful brand in history based on its influence and reach. What the article failed to mention was the release of the iPhone earlier that same year and the upcoming launch of the Android Operating System.

Uvie-Emegbo reminded attendees we have the benefit of hindsight here and know now what has happened to all three of those companies in the years since.

5. Replace the tyranny of “or” with the genius of “and”

Uvie-Emegbo wants companies to make sure they aren’t limiting themselves by being too selective when making decisions like whom they are going to target.

In Africa, 142,000 people control 42% of the continent’s wealth, he said. So instead of choosing whether to target who he calls the “haves” or the “have nots,” some companies are smartly choosing both. What they’re seeing in Africa is the light versions of apps like Facebook and Tik Tok are tops in the Play Store. These companies are able to tap into both sides of the market by providing an option that uses less data and is less expensive to run.

Uvie-Emegbo asked if media companies are doing the same thing radio stations are doing: putting cameras in their studios to capture a more visual audience.

6. Rethink competition

Would you believe the watch company that has the largest market share globally is not Rolex, Swatch, or Omega? It’s actually Apple.

Uvie-Emegbo used this example to ask: Who really are the media’s competitors? Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, and other apps allow consumers to shop on their sites, read news, and pay for items.

“We are competing with everyone, from everywhere, for everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re the market leader or not, no one is immune to competition. It’s only a matter of time,” Uvie-Emegbo said. 

7. Review our ecosystem

Uvie-Emegbo told attendees to take a good look at their network of players across different industries that you rely on to create solutions for consumers.

He used the example of Imagination Technologies, which supplied graphic chips for Apple. Apple began making its own chips and dropped Imagination Technologies, whose stock fell 72%. It turns out 48% of all its business was reliant on Apple. Imagination had to sell the company. 

Uvie-Emegbo asked: Are you in a position now that this could happen? Who’s in your ecosystem?

“Do you have the right network partners? We are pawns in the game of Big Tech. We need to rethink our positioning,” he said. 

8. Reinvent new ways of working

“Ours is not a media firm. We are a digital-first and data-first firm offering media products and services,” Uvie-Emegbo said. “It means we have to be agile. What are the factors stopping us from being responsive organisations?”

Uvie-Emegbo said he wants companies to use what he calls “The Stupid Whys” approach. Customers ask stupid questions and if we address them, that adds an increase in value, he said.

“Why do I go to your platform and see the same home page as everyone else?” Uvie-Emegbo asked. “Why can’t I have a customised homepage dedicated to me?”

He wants companies to ask: Can we work faster, easier, better, and be more flexible? He wants media companies to embrace that and push to be fast movers without sacrificing quality.  

9. Recreate the digital skills of our team

Uvie-Emegbo encouraged media companies to look for the right digital literacy framework to adopt: “What do you need for your position and to meet your goals and future career aspirations.”

The right digital literacy framework for your team is key.
The right digital literacy framework for your team is key.

10. Readjust to become the platform

“You have to develop products, processes, or services that transform existing markets or create new ones,” Uvie-Emegbo said. He recommends what’s known as the ERRC Framework: Elevate, Reduce, Raise, and Create.

“As an organisation, you need to ask yourselves: What factors do we need to eliminate or reduce in our industry that, if we do, it will take away customer frustrations? They’ll love us for that,” Uvie-Emegbo said. “What value do we need to create that doesn’t exist in our industry that, if we do, it’ll set us miles apart from our competitors?”

The Summit continues Thursday.

About Michelle Palmer Jones

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