Load shedding slowing down tech adoption for South Africa’s SMEs

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Colin Timmis, Xero ZA General Country Manager and Professional Accountant.

Load shedding slowing down tech adoption for South Africa's SMEs
Colin Timmis, General Country Manager, Xero SA.

New research reveals South African small businesses aren’t able to adopt cloud technology because of their connectivity problems. The third annual State of Small Business report from accounting software firm Xero, conducted in partnership with World Wide Worx (WWW) shows that over half (53 per cent) of small businesses haven’t adopted cloud technology yet, due to connectivity problems.

Over half (59 per cent) said that scheduled power outages by the national supplier posed a significant challenge for their business. In addition, more than two fifths (43 per cent) said that their internet connection was ‘OK but not 100 per cent reliable’. Other challenges cited include new technologies entering the market (29 per cent) and compatibility with customers (45 per cent).

The research represents the opinions of 400 South African small business owners and 200 South African accountants. Almost half (47 per cent) said their staff were highly tech-literate, but more than two thirds (67 per cent) don’t allocate budget for training employees to use the software provided.

Colin Timmis, General Country Manager, Xero SA and professional accountant said “Our most recent State of Small Business report gives a real insight into what it’s like on the ground for small businesses in South Africa. In uncertain times like these, technology can provide stability. For example, cloud software can help overcome issues with connectivity. It helps to make your business more agile, meaning you can work from anywhere at any time. Being able to move when there are scheduled power cuts or patchy internet is crucial to keeping your business running.”

Nearly all who had adopted cloud technology said that they noticed an increase in profit (98 per cent) and an increase in efficiency (99 per cent). More than half (51 per cent) suggested that it had improved their ability to work anywhere, and a quarter (25 per cent) said it had improved security.

In addition, nearly two fifths (38 per cent) said their IT set up was ahead of the curve. Over half (56 per cent) said they use basic automation, whether in operational or accounting tasks. A quarter (25 per cent) said they were using Internet of Things (IoT) technology, followed by cloud computing (19 per cent).

“It’s great that South Africa’s small businesses are seeing the benefits of adopting technology. But there will be a learning curve for anyone using new software and employees shouldn’t be expected to self-teach. Because people are more tech-savvy than they used to be, training normally only takes a few hours. It could make all the difference in getting return on investment on the technology that you buy”, said Timmis.

Other key findings from the research reveal:

Three quarters (79 per cent) of small businesses claim that accounting software support is very important
Three quarters (78 per cent) of respondents use accounting software to manage financial records and over half (55 per cent) are using desktop solutions.
Only one fifth (22 per cent) are using cloud accounting tools and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) still do their books manually.
Only a tiny proportion of respondents (0.25 per cent) are using AI and machine learning.

Download the report in full here.

Edited by Fundsiwe Maseko
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