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Fraud the main driver behind AI, analytics adoption in Africa

Fraud the main driver behind AI, analytics adoption in Africa

Businesses in Africa are in a race against time to fast-track AI and analytics solution development and implementation to combat fraud. Data is growing exponentially and so too the rate of cybercrime, forcing the continent to build its AI and data analytics ecosystem. Simultaneously, there is a growing realisation of the substantial opportunity linked to the role that AI, machine learning and vision computing will play in digital transformation.

This emerged from discussions at SAS Analytics Experience 2019 in Milan this week.

Desan Naidoo, vice president of Africa at business analytics software vendor SAS, said Africa faces similar challenges to its international counterparts when it comes to AI solution adoption – but the continent does differ as far as adoption rate is concerned.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide,

Growth in spend on AI systems in the MEA region is expected to reach US$374.2-million in 2020, up from US$261.8-million in 2018 and an anticipated US$310.3-million in 2019.

Retail and finance is expected to lead and together account for over 33% of the spending in 2020, followed by federal/ central governments and telecommunication industry.

"Maybe the adoption rate is a bit different to how it's being adopted in the more mature countries in Europe, but I would also segment that a little bit when I say (in terms of) Africa as a whole, I think South Africa and the maturity of the South African clients are higher when I look at it from an African perspective.... (it's) been primarily around skills and the ecosystem around that," said Naidoo.

According to Naidoo this maturity is due, in part, to industries like banking and telecommunications keeping up with skills development and using that to strengthen the ecosystem.

Clients have had skills, developed in-house, over many years around analytics and advanced analytics, and they are now transitioning to explore opportunities in open source for example, he added.

"They've had a lot of skills and I think the ecosystem in South Africa has catered for it in that the universities and programmes to develop those skills have been there."

Naidoo says for the rest of Africa, there is an opportunity to catch up quickly on time-to-market and leverage hosted type solutions and results-as-a-service solutions rather than developing skills in-house.

There is a need to reinforce the ecosystem, underpinned by sufficient skills, in order to capitalise on emerging use cases.

"Fraud has been the number one use case right now and we can also segment that into South Africa and the rest of Africa, but I think for South Africa as whole, we've gone through nine, ten years of a government which has been fraught with fraud and irregularities. The new government dispensation is talking about actually fixing this, but my comment is 'it's time to put your money where your mouth is'- at the end of the day technology is there and you need to embrace this.... and make sure you are implementing systems and process to fix it," Naidoo added.

Naidoo said SAS, in partnership with a South African firm Facts Consulting, to develop and roll out a procurement integrity solution whereby procurement systems are tightly integrated with analytics, and looks for anomalies in that procurement.

The technology has been integrated into SAS' global solution portfolio.

The solution is expected to gain ground in Africa, specifically as businesses focus on fraud detection and prevention, rather than post-incident investigation.

According to Naidoo, there has also been a huge focus on fraud in Nigeria, particularly within the financial services space.

"We're seeing adoption within the banks right now, not as much in the public sector – although with the financial intelligence unit, there are some discussions happening," he said.

Fraud is the main focus for SAS in Africa, followed by the use of analytics to improve the customer experience, particularly in terms of brand awareness and service delivery.

"Getting it right with the consumer is extremely important today," he added,

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