Kemtek’s new head of Auto ID, Anthony Shumba, has more than 15 years of industry experience – his knowledge of how best to apply solutions to Africa’s unique challenges means he is ideally placed to share insights into how technology is transforming many aspects of life and business across the continent.
Prior to joining Kemtek on its journey beyond technology, Shumba gained exposure to many of the potential applications for Auto ID (automated identification) technology in Africa. His focus on business development and channel management have given him exceptional relationship building skills, as well as the opportunity to witness first hand how Auto ID technology is driving change in sectors as diverse as retail, mining and health care.
Auto ID: an accelerated story
As with other major markets, the story of Auto ID in Africa began with linear bar codes, but Africa as a whole has been able to take advantage of global innovations to speed up its own adoption trajectory.
Where Africa has been behind the curve, Shumba believes, is in manufacturing Auto ID devices. He attributes this to a business model focused on assembly, and using components sourced from overseas. Skills development and skills transfer have also been problematic at times.
Uniquely African opportunities
Unlike some other major regions, Africa has a large and thriving informal sector. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity in that data is often lacking and informal traders may not have the resources required to invest in business technology, even when they know that this can ultimately help grow their businesses.
For Auto ID products to gain traction in the informal sector, they need to tick several boxes. That is, they must be intuitively easy to use, affordable and rugged. A major driver of growth in this area has been the need to take payments for digital assets (typically cellphone airtime and data). As more and more people in lower LSM bands have gained access to bank accounts, there has been a general movement away from cash and towards card payments, or payments facilitated by smart devices. This naturally lends itself to Auto ID solutions like label printing, receipt printing, inventory management and point of sale.
Equally, as African workers continue to upskill, there is less of a need for manual labour, and instead a greater requirement for technically competent operators. While some categories of manual work are falling away – for example, in warehousing and logistics – the growth of African e-commerce is creating new opportunities, many of them involving using Auto ID technology in the pick and pack and fulfilment workstreams.
Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and this truism can be seen at work in multiple instances of Auto ID technology adaptation in Africa.
Examples include a major South African retailer building its own payments system using a payment device connected to the microphone jack of a phone and attaching a 2D payment scanner – this proved to be an effective POS queue-busting device.
A leading fashion retailer adopted a similar approach, improving the ergonomics of a PDA-enabled scanner by equipping it with a locally designed and produced 3D-printed pistol grip.
Another leading clothing retailer has adopted RFID checkout, which allows customers to easily scan products on their own without cashier assistance and to complete the checkout process with card payments.
Inspired by this inventiveness, Shumba has flagged several early priorities in his new role, namely strengthening relationships with existing tech partners/principals, ensuring that Kemtek’s product offerings are seamlessly aligned with market requirements, and identifying products to plug any gaps in the existing line-up.
He is confident that in this way he can accelerate Kemtek’s contribution to Auto ID-driven economic growth. Anthony sees the African market as a fascinating conundrum – and one that offers almost limitless potential – even though, as he states, it is very much not a question of starting from scratch.
Shumba has already determined that African industries have a particular requirement for ruggedised devices, and that parallel retail trends towards operational efficiencies and improved customer service and engagement will drive demand for RFID-enabled devices and price checkers.
In a law-enforcement context, bar code scanners have been used at border posts to give each traveller a single unique identifier that stays with them throughout the entire immigration and customs process – and again, cuts down on waiting times. Another example is traffic officers being issued with mobile computer that can capture driver’s licences and immediately determine if the driver has any outstanding traffic infringements, thereby vastly improving revenue collection and resolution rates for overdue traffic fines.
Further growth potential
Looking ahead, Shumba sees more widespread adoption of Auto ID solutions as costs come down, leading to improvements in many aspects of life in Africa, including labour-saving devices and solutions that make many everyday experiences more interactive and more enjoyable.
Africa may not have been among the earliest adopters of Auto ID technology, but the combination of organic innovation and market growth potential means that there has never been a better time to be in Auto ID in Africa. That’s something that Shumba is determined to capitalise on and, in the process, he is certain that businesses, end users and consumers will all benefit.
To learn more about Datalogic innovations available from Kemtek, visit kemtek.co.za/prod_brand/datalogic/.
Kemtek is celebrating 35 years of successful evolution thanks to an ongoing drive to deliver the best possible outcomes to our customers. The company has grown from being an equipment supplier into a trusted solutions partner. Working with global partners, including world-class, innovative OEMs, Kemtek has pivoted their business to focus on seven key areas: Auto ID technology, labelling solutions, digital print technology, large-format printing technology, additive manufacturing technology, 3D printing and renewable resources technology.
Kemtek is deeply committed to achieving ambitious transformation targets through providing an inclusive environment for all team members. The company continually strives to improve its B-BBEE contributor level – and on an individual level provides ongoing upskilling and educational opportunities for all Kemtek employees.
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