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Driving Tanzania’s Digital Future: CEOrt Champions Innovation and Collaboration

Tanzanian business leaders have pledged to increase innovative and collaborative efforts geared towards accelerating digital transformation in the country. This commitment emerged during a recent dialogue session facilitated by the CEO Roundtable of Tanzania (CEOrt), an organisation representing CEOs from over 200 leading Tanzanian companies across multiple sectors of the economy with a shared purpose to enhance impact in leadership and drive sustainable socio-economic growth. The discussions focused on ‘Digital Transformation through Innovation and Collaboration’, engaging stakeholders from the Public and Private Sectors and highlighting the attained milestones while addressing the next measures required to actualise comprehensive digital integration, ensuring its accessibility across all segments of society.

The pace of digital transformation across the world has accelerated, and a new era of opportunities and challenges has emerged after disruptions in the global market shaped how countries reimagine possibilities. Delivering the keynote address at the CEOrt meeting, Hon. Nape Nnauye, Minister for Information, Communication, and Information Technology, emphasised the Government’s commitment to fostering an environment where innovation thrives and collaboration with the business community is enhanced in order to support socio-economic development. As he succinctly put it, “technology is just a tool; the real power lies in how we wield it, and it is in this wielding that the principles of innovation and collaboration take centre stage.” Tanzania has certainly come a long way in the use of technology, as indicated in the GovTech Maturity Index (GTMI) 2022 report which placed the country at 26th position in the globe with effective use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in delivering public services (up from the 90th position in 2021).

Digital Transformation through Innovation

In the realm of digital advancement, where the Government has a key facilitator role to play and the Private Sector is instrumental in innovating and executing transformative initiatives, the importance of smart Public Private Partnerships cannot be overstated. Tanzania’s digital landscape is being shaped by various elements, including the broadening of network coverage, the introduction of high-speed internet services, and the increasing integration of mobile money technologies. Essential stakeholders within the industry are working closely with the Government to bridge gaps within the digital ecosystem, thereby unlocking the complete potential for transformative digital change. A significant player in this arena is Vodacom Tanzania, demonstrating a strong commitment to bolstering technological investments within the country. Evident in their initiatives such as a digital accelerator program tailored to support tech startups, Vodacom is resolute in its mission to leverage technology to transform lives. “The journey to digital transformation cannot be walked alone. Public-private partnerships are pivotal. These collaborations can bridge the digital divide and enhance delivery. In Africa, a continent often underestimated, a striking testament to its digital potential is its mobile usage, 72% of its vibrant population uses mobile phones regularly,” said Vodacom Tanzania Managing Director Mr. Philip Besiimire. As another key player, MIC Tanzania Ltd (Tigo) remains actively engaged in conducting diverse campaigns aimed at fostering a digital culture among its customer base. The canvas on which Tanzania’s digital future is being painted may only have initial sketches for now, but industry captains in multiple sectors are inspired to contribute to its evolving composition.

The world today finds itself on the verge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), where technology has a significant impact on every aspect of life as we know it. This extends beyond business operations, fundamentally altering societal dynamics and reshaping the contours of national economies. In Africa, digitisation is making a notable impact, particularly through the avenue of mobile technology, by driving significant strides in financial inclusion. While financial institutions have traditionally taken established products and translated them into digital offerings, there is ample room for improvement across the board. Financial institutions are in a strong position to analyse customer behaviour and understand underlying needs so as to enhance digital services. A good example is Azania Bank Ltd.’s strategic partnerships, which aim to elevate digital financial services, ultimately bridging gaps and providing efficient banking solutions to the financially underserved demographic. Similarly, Stanbic Bank Tanzania, has acknowledged the role of digital services as a catalyst for its business operations, progressively evolving into an entity that harnesses digital resources to enhance cost management practices. As mentioned by Mr. Manzi Rwegasira, “Client needs and expectations are constantly changing. Clients are looking for individualised service and solutions. In order to remain relevant to customers, digital transformation is inevitable. At Stanbic Bank, we are collaborating with various partners to ensure that our products and services are innovative and relevant so as to cater to the changing needs of our customers.”

Digital Transformation through Collaboration

Drawing insights from personal experiences to illustrate strategies for driving collective efforts, Mr. Edwin Bruno – CEO & CVO at Smart Africa Group (SAG), advocated for starting with a shared vision of collaboration and clearly delineating how each partner can contribute value to the partnership. Illustrating his point with reference to Rifaly, SAG’s content curation platform that disseminates African content digitally to a global readership, he highlighted how their cross-collaboration with publishers ensures content availability, while strategic partnerships with mobile networks and financial institutions facilitate seamless digital payments, empowering each participant to assume an important role in materialising the collective vision. This collaborative model also led to technology exportation to neighbouring countries, thereby expanding the initial vision’s reach.

As part of the evening’s discussions,  business leaders agreed that Tanzania’s journey toward digital transformation through collaboration is undeniably promising. However, there’s a prevailing consensus that our current progress still falls short of where we want to be. Recognizing the gap in terms of appreciation for technological innovations, Mr. Harish Bhatt – Managing Director of Soft-Tech Consultants Ltd, called out the limited usage of data analytics by the Private Sector. His views were validated by a preliminary survey conducted during the CEOrt engagement.The survey found that 55% of the represented are fully digitised, whilst only 26.9% are well established in their approach to data analytics. Mr. Bhatt stressed the latent potential for leveraging data analytics by categorising data based on behavioural patterns instead of demographic factors. This strategic approach, he emphasised, holds the capability to predict consumer needs and generate invaluable insights. “Embracing technology and digital transformation is not just about adopting new tools—it’s about forging the future of business. At Soft-Tech Consultants, we believe in not only navigating the digital landscape but mastering it, ensuring that every leap forward becomes a strategic advantage for our partners”, he added.

This assumption hinges on the premise that end users will furnish accurate data for effective utilisation, requiring a foundational level of trust. The establishment of digital infrastructure takes this factor into consideration. As highlighted by Hon. Minister Nnauye, there has been a shift in the government’s approach from a geographical coverage-centric service provision to an endeavour aimed at connecting every individual, guided by five essential pillars: availability, affordability, safety, impact, and quality. The aspiration is that over time, influential policies like the National Digital Economy Framework, National Cybersecurity Strategy, enactment of the Personal Data Protection Act of 2022, and other frameworks will persist in cultivating the adoption of technology in Tanzania. This trajectory will not only fortify trust but also enhance the accessibility of suitable data for analysis.

Enhancing Regulatory and Educational Frameworks

Enhancing digital transformation in Tanzania could also involve refining regulatory frameworks. Responding to a question to the panel at the CEOrt meeting about the nation’s genuine embrace of technology as a facilitator of socio-economic advancement, Ms. Zuweina Farah, Founder of SNDBX and External Affairs & Vodacom Foundation Director, identified factors like regulatory frameworks, data sovereignty, and mindset as elements impeding faster digital integration. In her observations, she recommended integrating design thinking skills into the education system to ensure that startup innovations align with societal needs, ensuring their sustainability. This sentiment was mirrored by another panel discussant, Mr. George Mulamula, CEO of Technovate, who underscored the necessity for a shift in mindset away from replicating existing norms and towards innovating solutions that hold pertinent market value. Furthermore, businesses are urged to open their doors to startups, forging avenues of partnership and collaboration that serve as conduits for imparting valuable insights to these budding organisations about the essentials of survival.

Moving Forward in Harnessing Digital Transformation

The recommended actions should not overshadow the significant strides made by digital progress in Tanzania thus far. Rather, they represent a determination to further unlock the potential of digital transformation. These steps encompass encouraging the Private Sector to intensify their initiatives in fostering strategic collaborations, urging academia to augment efforts in educating the public and reshaping perspectives, and emphasising the importance of the Government’s unwavering commitment to realising the nation’s digital vision. Companies such as Beem Africa, which facilitate streamlined customer interactions through digital channels, play an instrumental role in establishing the groundwork for harnessing technology to achieve prosperity. Her Excellency President Samia Suluhu Hassan has set out to advance digital development in Tanzania, with both the Public and Private sectors assuming vital responsibilities in shaping the envisioned opportunistic future. The CEOrt remains committed to fostering cross-sector dialogue that consistently advocates for the country’s sustainable socio-economic prosperity.