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Glenn Du Toit

Country Manager - Director, Acer Africa

 

Describe Acer. 


Acer has been a leader in delivering technology to the masses for over 45-years. Our core value is to make the latest technology more affordable and in the context of Africa where poverty and unemployment levels remain high, technology is often one of the last considerations. It is with this conviction in mind that we, at Acer, respect and appreciate our customers' investment in our brand and remain committed not to deliver old, outdated tech, but to keep pushing the latest products into our market. 


What would you consider are the main challenges in leading a global company, which has global goals and objectives, from a local point of view?


Keeping up with the explosion that Acer global has undergone over the past few years! 

Not many people in South Africa and Africa as a whole know that globally Acer embarked on a purpose filled journey to diversify into other businesses, such as e-scooters, air-purifiers, water-purification, domestic power solutions, to name a few. Our vision is to bring some of those products to market in Africa in the coming months to offer consumers the affordable, quality products that go way beyond the PC which made us famous. 


To do this at a local level is not a simple task as the model we are working to build with Acer in Africa, MUST be grounded in local content and not the traditional import model. Our commitment to providing local jobs is high on our priorities list.  


This certainly does not mean we will shift our focus away from our computing products, in fact, here too we have a number of projects to drive our affordable, high-performance technology strategy. Acer globally is expanding, and we need to follow suite!  

  

How does the South African economy impact the development of Acer in the country? Do you think new economic policies would mean a change in the company?


The traditional PC business is tough at the moment, South Africans have bigger issues to worry about than rushing out to buy a computer on the latest Black Friday deal. Businesses are struggling too! I have no doubt that there will be those that do, but I think for the masses, times are really tough right now. And to me, this is where brands like ourselves really bring value to our customers through providing the latest technology rather than dumping old product into the market. It may be cheaper to buy older tech, but it certainly will not give the consumer the value they are looking for.  More importantly, as we start shifting to include more AI in our daily PC functionality, so the threat is that Africa will once again be left behind because old tech has been allowed into our market.


It is going to be interesting to see how South Africa aligns to global trends to use technology for job creation. If we have a look at what many of the BRICS countries have done, they have implemented strict anti-dumping laws to prevent older tech from finding its ways to the shores in an effort to protect the consumers from vendors who are pushing to achieve sales targets. Added to this, is a renewed focus on local job creating in the device sector. India, for example, has a program to encourage local assembly of computers to not only provide jobs, but also build tech-skills that are so greatly needed for the future workforce. I think revisiting this would be a welcomed policy change. 


How are the digitalization and digital literacy indexes in the South African population? What are the main challenges of this matter?


If we have a look at the latest statistics, by household quintile, it’s clear that many South African households have not begun the digitization process. For example the middle income households, quintile 4, only have a 32% adoption of PC’s in the home, while quintile 3 the number is closer to 17%! Looking at these statistics, it is clear that we have a very long way to go to introduce technology into the everyday South African's life. What this also means is that we remain on the back foot when it comes to the future workforce. As AI based robotic solutions take over the task based labour roles that many semi-skilled and unskilled workers currently fill, we cannot ignore the unemployment time bomb that is ticking. We already have a massive problem with unemployment around the 33% mark, youth unemployment over 60% in Q2 2023. If we do not act to solve the digital literacy problem in Africa, we will pass the point of no return before 2030. The principals of progress will not allow us to ignore or stop this from happening, we have to find a way to expedite digital literacy. 


I firmly believe the solution to empowering digital literacy and ultimately reducing youth unemployment lies within our education system. Provincial governments across South Africa are working tirelessly to address this matter, and I am so encouraged at the future thinking that is taking place behind the scenes. So it is not all doom and gloom, the wheels are turning, and it is just a matter of time before we see the wave of digital literacy improvement coming our way.       


Finally, is Acer an influential company within the country’s educational system? Could you describe the projects that are carried out in educational centres?


Education is Acer’s calling! Yes, we sell computers into education departments and schools across the world, making us a leader in the education field, but that is the very last area of focus for us. 


At Acer, we work extensively to help schools, in their technology transformation journey. This journey does not start with the computer, in fact, in almost every case, the computer is the very last topic of conversation. To get there, schools need to travel a journey, addressing the many challenges they face. Challenges such as  funding, old-mindset resistance, connectivity, service, security and logistics, the list goes on and on. We have found our calling in the South African educational transformational journey to avail ourselves to individual schools to guide them through the maze to avoid the inevitable pitfalls that they will encounter.  Not a week goes by where I don’t personally have one of these sessions to lead, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. 


I think one of our current projects in education that we are the most proud of is our Esports in Education strategy. This has not only been extremely fruitful, but it has been a blast working with schools and educators to empower them in building their in-house esports programs. We have cut their costs down through training the educators how to set up teams, run clubs and even host tournaments! In the past, many of them were paying large sums of cash to organizations who would do it for them. We even wrote a book that will come out in 2024 to help schools throughout Africa demystify Esports in Education. We cannot wait for this! 


Are we influencers, I think we have taken on the role of leaders in educational transformation, being a leader is more authentic than an influencer. With an influencer, it is about them, with a leader, it is about the people!   

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