The beverage industry helps Africa embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution


The beverage industry is ready to seize the opportunities created by the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). Companies are harnessing the new technologies to respond to consumer needs, upskill entrepreneurs, and drive inclusive growth across the continent.

The 4th Industrial Revolution holds much promise for African countries, as a means of shifting their reliance on commodity-based growth cycles to drive innovation, co-operation, inclusive growth and stability across Africa.

The beverage industry has an important role to play in supporting Africa to take up its rightful place in the new economic revolution.

In support of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming the continent into the global powerhouse of the future, the sector is using technology to revolutionise supply chains; respond to evolving consumer needs; innovate to create sustainable solutions to some of the continent’s most pressing socio-economic and environmental issues; and create successful African entrepreneurs for the future.

The promise and perils of a technology revolution

While technological development is a global reality, it reflects a world of haves and have nots. New technologies that characterise the 4IR such as advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing will revolutionise supply chains and disrupt the way companies create value.

While many of these technologies hold the potential to improve inefficiencies, drive innovation and provide a platform for greater choice for consumers, they also present challenges.

Accessibility to these technologies differs vastly across the continent – potentially driving a deeper wedge between those that can access new technologies and those who can’t.

To address this challenge, beverage companies such as The Coca-Cola Company are using the 4IR to revolutionise how they respond to the changing needs of African consumers. New technologies make it possible for brands  to respond to an evolving consumer landscape with  innovation in products and services as well as customisation.

Whereas in the past businesses decided what to offer to consumers, technology has enabled consumers to be part of the process in determining what they want, how they want it and where they want it. This has driven a trend for consumers to seek more personalised and premiumised products, all within arm’s reach.

In turn, this has driven companies such as The  Coca-Cola Company to become consumer-centric total beverage operations, offering a wider range of products  to suit the continent’s vastly different demographic groups.

Driving innovation and cooperation

Over the next few years, the continent will experience a digital transformation like never before, driven by the use of data and technology to improve just about every facet of people’s lives. As individuals embrace this new digital reality, so too must businesses. A company like The Coca-Cola Company, which has been on the continent for nearly 100 years, understands well the importance of embracing technology to stay

Increasingly, staying relevant across the continent means continually delivering shared value and driving inclusive growth for communities, customers, entrepreneurs and governments. The Coca-Cola Company is finding ways to modernise its systems, instigate new ways of collaborating and to leverage data and technology to deliver inclusive growth.

A recent example in South Africa is a partnership between Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA – a bottling partner of The Coca-Cola Company) and the South African Department of Transport to improve the safety of the country’s roads.

CCBSA is making available two of its state-of-the-art simulator trucks for use by the department and government, broadly, to aid in developing the competency levels of truck and bus drivers, as well as other public transport drivers across the country. The use of this simulator within CCBSA has significantly improved the competency levels of CCBSA drivers and consequently reduced road-related safety incidents. Having seen  the benefits of this technology, CCBSA is now  making it available to the broader driving community to support the Department of Transport’s Road Safety campaign.

Technology has already transformed the way beverage companies do business. A convergence of breakthrough technologies is transforming production processes, distribution of products and the supply chain, providing opportunities for creating value for individuals, communities, companies and governments. This is where collaboration can create shared value. 

For instance, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, the largest Coca-Cola bottler on the continent, has made extensive investments in its supply chain infrastructure in South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.  These investments in technology also result in increased local sourcing of inputs and ingredients, as well more employment and skills development for local communities. 

Upskilling for the future

From investing in their employees, reskilling and upskilling their workforces, the beverage sector is also collaborating with partners to ensure Africans are future-fit for the 4IR. In particular, entrepreneurs and small businesses, who remain a major contributor to growth and job creation, require the technological skills to thrive in this new context.

Across the continent, The Coca-Cola Company is working with customers from retail stores to small spaza shop owners and micro-distribution centres to digitise enabling services and grow their businesses. The company provides beverage sector-related technology to reduce customer-facing manual processes and complicated processes, to improve productivity and back-office functions.

The company, together with its bottling partners  on the continent, helps more than 1m women to  harness technology and drive innovation in their businesses. 

A continent ready for success

The beverage industry stands ready to support Africa to seize the opportunities created by the 4IR.

Through partnerships with governments, civil society and communities, the industry is equipping people  with the right capabilities to make informed choices, empowering entrepreneurs by upskilling and enhancing their capabilities through technology and driving  inclusive growth across the continent as Africa evolves into the global economic powerhouse its leaders envision. 

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