VENTURES AFRICA – It is not a surprise that Africa is still considered as a backward continent with severely underdeveloped economies by some people in the world. However, while Africa, a vast continent of over 1 billion people, does have its many lingering economic problems, a quiet slow burning revolution in technological and business development has been working its way across the continent. This growth has been enormously helped by the worldwide explosion in web based telecommunications and internet data sharing technologies.
The latest of these technological expansions is the field of increasingly inexpensive video conferencing. And in Africa it has meant considerable improvements to the business landscape, making communication between numerous business players both small and large much easier and cheaper than ever before. This has resulted in several significant changes to how easily transactions and cooperation get handled, particularly in this continent where a reliable landline utility infrastructure has never developed as thoroughly as it did on other continents.
Easily Accessible, Cheaper Video Conferencing Apps
As a fundamental starting point in the changing video conferencing landscape today, many of the video conferencing apps that are available for smart phones working on the Android or iOS platforms carry all sorts of features that only a decade or more previously were available only within an expensive software framework. Now, these features, such as multiparty video calling and data sharing, come in dozens of different mobile video apps that can be used over wireless and broadband networks. Due to these fairly cheap or even free apps, business owners can more easily communicate
In addition to wireless device apps, companies like Skype, GoToMeeting and other VOIP providers are offering web based desktop and laptop systems that can give a business access to video conferencing tools for a very low one time or monthly price and even for free in many cases.
Within the more advanced and developed territory of enterprise level Video conferencing systems, Oracle, Sony and Microsoft provide installation of integrated teleconferencing systems with their own monitoring and dedicated broadband connections for prices that are now ten times cheaper than they were just 5 years ago! Oracle, for example, sells a system known as Telepresence for only $30,000 in installation costs; 5 years ago this price represented just its monthly servicing bill and installing the same system cost over $300,000.
These are some of the important factors that have led to the effects of video conferencing on African business.
Cheap Cross Border Communications
As a starting point, the rapidly cheapening proliferation of video conferencing software and apps for desktop, laptop and tablet computers as well as mobile devices has created an atmosphere in which even small business owners and individuals with no landline telephone access can often download freely available online apps like Skype and others to communicate with each other. Using the same data transmission media, they can also share information and documents easily and cheaply if not for free. This is becoming more and more easily possible due to the wireless and broadband networks that are spreading their coverage across the entire African continent.
Increased Intercontinental Trade
With video conferencing and teleconferencing tools falling into the hands of an ever increasing number of African businesses and the communications infrastructure that supports these tools steadily growing wider in scope, African business ventures can now communicate and do business with the Outside world much more easily and on more equal terms than ever before.
Business partnerships and communications now no longer need to depend on the narrow scope of email communications and simple phone calls or on the use of often unreliable mail services and landline telephone systems. This specifically allows African businesses to (quite literally) show their faces on the international marketplace and develop trustworthy relationships with other small or large business in Asia, Europe and even North America.
The direct result of this is more international trade flowing in and out of Africa as a whole, bringing familiarity with African products and services to the outside world while also increasing product selection continentally.
Easier and Cheaper Professional Business Presentation
A company that can’t present its managers and owners to the world through the latest technology is not a company that will easily gain the trust of others. This same rule applies in reverse; a company that shows a human face, at an office, behind its business front is one that is more likely to inspire and receive confidence. Until the last few years, this was simply not possible for many companies in Africa, particularly smaller ones. Now, with such enormous price drops and expanded options in video conferencing technology, even very tiny startups can create a much more professional looking presence for themselves. This directly helps them get taken more seriously by larger players and by more maturely developed overseas companies.
This trend can work wonders for individuals who previously had no way of really showing themselves and their products to the world.
A more Level Playing Field
The rise of cheap but very effective and capable video conferencing technology has also leveled the competitive playing field in favor of the little companies that make up a large part of the economy in many African countries. Previously, the only players that could interactively communicate internationally were major companies (many of them foreign) now many local, regional and national businesses can steal some of the marketplace back and compete thanks to an equal ability to maintain a professional image. This will help many African companies increase their sales, revenues and size, which in turn will allow many African economies to undergo localized business development that keeps profits and growth continuing within national borders.
Better Communications and Public Relations
Smooth information flow is key to a successful business and even more crucial to a successful economy. Video conferencing and the underlying internet access structure that allows it will both make information sharing amongst individuals, businesses and organizations much easier and more dynamic. They are already doing this but the trend will only continue to grow. With greater information sharing will come more access to new business opportunities, better familiarity with different laws and customs and new tools for fighting corruption and other legal problems.
Companies that learn to effectively share information over video linkups will be able to cement better and more trustworthy relationships with everyone they do business with and create more trust amongst otherwise wary customers. In effect they are able to build a more distinct brand of their own based on more dynamic human contact.
About the author: Steven Chalmers, an award winning freelance writer, has been covering the business industry for many years. When Steven isn’t writing, you can find him covering businesses like www.intercall.com or working on his forthcoming novel, due out in November of next year.