CAPE TOWN – A study into innovation in Africa’s mining sector has shown that mining houses will need to innovate if they want to succeed in a sector marked by plunging commodity prices, deeper and more dangerous mines, greater geographical complexity and labour unrest. The ‘Innovation State of Play: Africa’ report, compiled by Monitor Deloitte and Mining Indaba, shows that the African mining sector is midfield in terms of innovation focus and impact. It scores on the lower end of competence on the industry maturity scale, but is slightly above the Canadian average.
“This hints at an opportunity for the continent to push ahead and truly lead through innovation, particularly as the operational context lends itself to thinking and working differently to unlock efficiencies,” said Deloitte Africa mining leader Andrew Lane. The study, the second of a three-part series which also covers Australia and Canada, examined current perspectives on innovation through a series of executive interviews. It also used the Innovation Scorecard survey methodology developed by the Deloitte innovation unit, Doblin.
Based on responses from mining executives, the current breakdown in Africa’s mining innovation was a relatively balanced 61% core, 23% adjacent and 16% transformational. This innovation ambition matrix is considered to be healthy. It follows a similar trend to the Canadian market. Core innovations are defined as innovations that optimise existing products for existing customers, while adjacent innovations are those that expand existing business into “new to the company” business.
Transformational or new innovations are considered breakthroughs and inventions for markets that do not yet exist. While the African market has a strong focus on core products and markets, including technological solutions to optimise old techniques as and when needed, the survey determined that there is significant scope to unlock higher levels of adjacent and transformational innovation. The study found that companies find it a challenge to spread risk. Lane said innovation needs to address the mine system holistically, incorporating it into social, labour and stakeholder spheres. “This is a view that is more inclined to be embedded in Africa’s mining players and one behind which there is a rallying call to capitalise on more.” Lane said companies need to be clear about what they are working on and how they envision their businesses of tomorrow if they want to unlock the potential of innovation and create a sustainable mining sector. “Importantly, senior management needs to champion innovation, while the appropriate governance structures need to be in place.”