Saturday 17 April 2021
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CEO’s cautious about future growth

PwC on Wednesday hosted Namibian CEO’s at the 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey under the theme ‘CEO’s curbed confidence spells caution.  Attended by business leaders and chief executive officers, PwC who has been doing the survey since 1997 this year focused on the correlation between the expectations by CEO’s in regards economic performance for global growth as well as that of their own organisations.
Again for this year’s Global CEO Survey, Namibians participated among professionals in 90 different countries.
“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data” is how Gerhard Muller, Associate Director of PwC South Africa started his presentation on Artificial Intelligence.
He quoted Sim Tshabalala, CEO of Standard Bank South Africa as saying that “my predecessors would have made a lot of decisions based on their experience and intuition.
They are still very important but you have got to triangulate them with data. As I always say: in God we trust; everybody else bring data.”
According to Muller, less than 3 percent of the world’s CEO’s use data to make long term business decisions thus not optimising the power available.
Insights generated about customers and clients is believed to bring about better results in business with AI predicted to generate 15,7 billion by 2030 in global GDP.
Stark in contrast, African CEO’s are yet to see the value of AI in their businesses and according to Muller, 35% have no current plan to tap into the gains available.
Lessons from the CEO Survey include the fostering of a culture of adaptability as well as ensuring that the workforce embrace AI systems.
Muller concluded his presentation by challenging CEOs to start by experimenting through small pocket testing, warning that by year end 10% of the workforce could be replaced by robots. Speaking at the same occassion PwC country managing director Nangula Uaandja highlighted this year 3 themes which emerged namely a reality check, a look inside-out for growth and lastly bridging the information and skills gaps.

Reality check
While in 2017 optimism soared regarding global growth, in 2018 nearly 30% of CEO’s projected a decline in global economic growth. With a significant drop in optimism, CEO’s are more polarised in their views on economic growth. In every region, except Africa, CEO have lost confidence in both the short and medium term revenue growth prospects.
Rocked by political upset and uncertainty, a more cautious outlook on global economic growth has emerged.

Look inside-out for growth
A world afflux with populist and protectionist sentiment sweeping across continents, and this has resulted in CEO’s turning inward. With ease of business remaining top-of-mind, policy uncertainty along with overregulation concerns remain at the top of a list of threats for five years in a row. Singling out the critical importance of growth, CEOs feel operational efficiency, organic growth, in doing what is necessary is where focus is required.
The threats they consider more pressing are related to the ease of doing business in their operational markets.

Mind the information and skills gaps
According to the survey,  CEO’s are working to bridge the gaps in their own capabilities as organisations struggle to translate a barrage of data into better decision making.
Deciphering what the skills required are and where the skills are, it is suggested that offering short courses to existing staff members will better their skill set and relevance to the business.
One particularly striking finding in the survey in the past year was the fact that the gap between the information needed and the information received by CEO’s, has not closed in the past ten years, despite billions of dollars of investment and priority positioning on the C-suite agenda.

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