Emerging anecdotal evidence of better than expected performance from the scanner market in the midst of the global pandemic is perhaps not as unexpected as we may at first think, writes Chris de Beer, Africa regional manager at Infosource.

The economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns have yet to gain substantial purchase throughout Africa, which creates uncertain markets and curbs spend. Yet, three global mega trends have begun to emerge, the World Economic Forum notes, that we already see taking shape in the market for scanners, their associated software solutions, and how organisations are using them to cope with emerging challenges.

Briefly, the pandemic is causing deglobalisation. The outcome is that we can expect to see “a rapid erosion of the principles of free trade that could delay the global economic recovery”. Second, it has seen emerging economies accumulate substantial debt burdens that, in Africa, will require considerable economic structural reforms to service. Third, the pandemic has accelerated digitalisation that must be effectively underpinned by technology-enabled services economies, for which many African states will have to transform.

A study by the African Union says the pandemic could put as many as 20 million African jobs at risk. As much as 15% of foreign direct investment will cease. Commodities prices have tanked. In Rwanda, for example, the mines are attempting to recover from the effects of lockdown while facing mineral prices 30% lower than they were prior to lockdown.

The drop in oil prices and general volatility in the market has caused Sasol to announce it will cut jobs at its facilities in West Africa. Nigerian inflation, as just one example, rose 6 basis points to 12.4% as a result of the pandemic and lockdown measures. The effects are widespread, deep, and require significant change, not least being rapid and significant digitalisation.

Increased interest in scanners by government

A major assembler and distributor of PCs and complementary IT products in South Africa, including printers and scanners, who preferred not to be named, says “interest in digitalisation has grown” since lockdown measures were announced in the country. “There has been a demand for A3, duplex, high volume, and flatbed scanners, especially in government sectors. However, A4 automatic document feed (ADF) scanners remain cost-effective and therefore continue to be popular in the market.”

Interest has been across the board but particularly high in the healthcare, security and legal sectors.

Shane Byren, GM of sales for Africa at Avision agrees. He says that his company has received requests for a range of uses covering legal, supply chain, including A3 delivery notes and customs documents, as well as general correspondence documentation. He adds, “One of the major hospital groups in the country has developed and rolled out a no-contact solution for new patients where their admission documents are scanned in by the patient while inputting their own information into their system. This involved a roll out of 100 units in the last week of April.”

“Some of the enquiries are for organisations that already have workflow and document management solutions in place but there is definitely interest in new solutions that seem to direct the future of scanning requirements across the entire business environment. We expect this to grow rapidly over the coming months as the face of business and document management changes to encompass the new way of doing business we are all being rushed into.”

Cameroon is implementing a new, fully automated customs clearance system, a project that began before the global pandemic but which will now pay even greater dividends. It replaces an existing automation solution called Sydonia++ created in 2007. The new Cameroon Information System (CAMCIS) went into pilot in October 2019 and is expected to improve import-export efficiencies for the country.

One of the major global brands in the print and scan industry says scanners is the one category it has not revised downwards since the outbreak of the global pandemic. The same company has also seen a surge in interest in home-office, all-in-one printing solutions based on total cost of ownership and ease of use.

This relatively potent performance in the scanner category is expected to continue as African nations ease lockdown regulations and people return to work. Contactless payments are expected to continue buoying the category and establishing it as one that vendors will continue to observe and develop as digitalisation, distributed workforces, and contactless operations become the new norm.

The efficiencies, opportunities to improve processes, and ability to support new business models by using scanners, workflow, and document management solutions, are accelerating Africa’s economic transformation and Africans’ ability to recover from the impacts of the global pandemic.

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