View from the top

Accenture executives share insights into and suggest solutions for cross-industry and cross-sector challenges in an evolving environment.

Digital collaboration and open innovation: South Africa vs. the rest of the world

William Mzimba, Accenture Chief Executive South Africa, Chairman Sub-Saharan Africa

In an increasingly digital and connected world, large enterprises and small entrepreneurs alike are exploring the value that can be created by closer and deeper collaboration with each other. There’s much to be gained, yet while companies in South Africa acknowledge the benefits they are slow to act on the opportunity. Accenture explored the "why" of it.

What are the benefits of closer collaboration? Enterprises get access to new skills, ideas, talent and markets, while entrepreneurs can tap into large companies’ distribution networks and customer bases. Local companies recognise this: In recent Accenture research, "Harnessing the Power of Entrepreneurs’ to Open Innovation," 82 percent of the large companies surveyed said they can learn from entrepreneurs about how to become a digital business, while 50 percent said they believed they needed to work with entrepreneurs to be sufficiently innovative. Yet obstacles to effective collaboration remain.

Entrepreneurs often question their partners’ commitment to supporting the growth of their businesses. Large enterprises, meanwhile, often lack confidence in a startup’s ability to move from idea to marketability in the context of a broader business strategy.

Open innovation is a journey for each of us and is driven by corporate needs and the market forces in a sector. The four stages of open innovation are corporate venturing, the creation of incubators or accelerators, engaging in joint innovation or co-creation and, finally, ecosystem innovation.

South Africa lags its G20 counterparts according to our research. To catch up, local companies may have to leapfrog to joint and ecosystem innovation while simultaneously maturing their approach to corporate ventures and accelerators. To do so, the guarded corporate mindset in South Africa will need to open up and embrace open innovation.

— Read more about South Africa’s opportunity to harness open innovation in Harnessing the Power of Entrepreneurs’ to Open Innovation – a $12 billion opportunity for South Africa.

— Read more about the role of Open Innovation in growing the economy in Accenture’s Forbes Africa Innovation Supplement, Leading in the New.