At the first-ever Future of Work Virtual Conference hosted by CNBC Africa, in partnership with FORBES AFRICA, on August 20, more than 2,000 global viewers engaged with industry experts on digital opportunities for the continent.
At the all-day virtual summit, the fourth panel discussion, titled ‘Digital Transformation and the Distributed Enterprise’, was moderated by Stuff Magazine South Africa’s editor-in-chief and publisher Toby Shapshak, and he was joined by panelists Jacqueline Raw, Owner and Founder of Ycagel; Stafford Masie, General Manager, WeWork Africa; and Gavin Reardon, Founder and Managing Partner at Kingson Capital.
Masie was the first speaker, and he said it’s not a question of ‘do we work from anywhere in the world’ but ‘can we’. “To see how CIOs and enterprises have metamorphosized their infrastructure to support remote working is quite profound.”
Masie likened it to businesses having its own [Amazon] “AWS moment”, from doing books to suddenly repurposing infrastructure for things outside the domain you initially constructed.
“We’re going to see the consequence of this change; the acceleration of the access of information securely and architecturally, which will lead to businesses asking ‘if our in-house employees can access systems and services, why can’t we open up and allow third parties to access it in the same way’?”
Reardon said it has been a mixed bag for startups. “There are some industries that are really battling in this time but there are some who have accelerated two years ahead of where they originally forecasted. It’s about being agile and adapting.”
One cannot escape what this fast-track environment is going to do for the workforce in Africa; how we are going to be increasingly online, the bigger penetration on the mobile front, and what it does for businesses who are evolving, he added.
Ycagel’s Raw opined that co-working spaces are a good thing. “In South Africa, we’re in the early stages of seeing what co-working spaces can do and how it can enable the gig economy.”
“Most co-working offerings in the market layer on the network you can plug into. Sales and marketing specialists can collaborate with app developers and coders; it’s that ecosystem that makes the proposition incredibly valuable for consultants, SMEs and startups,” she said.
“Post Covid, it’s something that will only grow as people connect, engage, look to collaborate and develop their ecosystems. Physically, environments might change but the community building and network development that comes from co-working will only get bigger.”
Masie added that a lot of people are looking for ‘space as a service’. There’s a decentralized need out there for space aside from working from home and coming into the office sporadically. “If I don’t give my staff that option, they will go work elsewhere. That’s the trend we’re seeing happening specifically in the enterprise space.”
Reardon agreed: “What Covid has done is it has corporatized the fact that flexibility is an option for your workforce. Part of the new digital transformation we’re seeing is the tools for collaborative work that’s offline, online, in person, or not in the office environment.”
Raw corroborated that as much as Covid is a tragedy, there is opportunity for acceleration when it comes to scaling remote work.