Automation in Africa
Artificial intelligence and automation are impacting all industries across Africa. It is estimated that more than 75% of jobs in developing countries are at risk of becoming automated . This includes low-skilled jobs in agriculture and the service industry, as well as more skilled roles in the corporate sector. As businesses look to improve efficiency on day-to-day routine tasks, this is also an opportunity for workers across the continent to upskill and seize new opportunities. And a failure to do so may leave some careers vulnerable. In fact, the banking sector in Kenya has already seen job losses because of automation. According to a Standard Digital article, jobs have been cut to make room for automation in order to improve efficiency.
Automation in finance
Finance professionals in Africa are no exception as new technologies will affect their career paths, skills and how they work with other teams across their organisations.
A case in point is the Union Bank of Nigeria, which introduced a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) last May. The RPA technology uses software robots to simplify business process delivery and is expected to deliver improved business efficiency and data security by automating repetitive tasks across the business. According to Chief Executive Officer, Union Bank, Mr. Emeka Emuwa, “The Bank’s adoption of RPA technology is expected to enhance staff productivity, reduce process turnaround time and improve accuracy and compliance. With the new technology in place, employees are better able to focus on other value adding and customer related functions, significantly improving the overall quality of customer experience.”
New age skills
While this change is a cause for concern, it also presents opportunities for the finance function to evolve. Now it has a mandate to go beyond its core accounting role. Accounting remains the foundation of the finance function, but enabled by new technologies, it is now capable of assessing a broader range of information and becoming a more influential player in the organisation. In fact, technology is augmenting the finance professionals’ capabilities to make them faster, more efficient and more productive.
Now that finance professionals are relieved of the repetitive accounting tasks, they can focus on influencing the decisions, actions and behaviours of their colleagues and provide leadership at all levels. To continue to add value to their organisations and future-proof their careers, they will need accounting and finance skills, as well as business acumen, people and leadership skills.
What can management accountants do to prepare?
Research by the Association of International Professional Certified Accountants indicates that change is happening in finance faster than ever before, but the opportunities are also greater than ever. It is therefore critical that finance professionals not only engage with their organisations about the changing role of finance, but that they keep their skills and competencies up-to-date, and adopt a growth mindset to lead these conversations and succeed in our digital world.