African business leaders are more concerned with losing their competitive edge to their peers than leaders in the rest of the world. 
When questioned about the impacts of technology-led change, global business leaders are positive about the effects on creativity and innovation, and concerned about keeping up with the pace of change.
Their challenges are focused on system and process issues, rather than stifled intuition or a possible takeover by computers or robots.
The European and African business leaders are more worried about keeping up with the pace of change than those in Asia and North America: 45% of Europeans say they are worried about not being able to keep up with technology and losing competitive edge, compared with 35% in Asia and 37% in North America.
The insights are from a new study called Humans and Machines, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Ricoh. The research investigates the impacts of technology upon human creativity and intuition.
When asked to rank their top technology challenges, business leaders placed systems not connected to each other in the top spot, followed closely by the fact that technology is evolving more quickly than the internal processes that support it.
European business leaders are most impacted by disconnected systems (46%) compared with 39% in Asia and 34% in North America.
“European and African businesses leaders face a challenging time; in addition to technology-led change, they must manage complex regulations and grow their businesses in a competitive and mature landscape. They are focused upon recovering from the global economic crisis and a slumping rand against the dollar, where the viability of the currency is being questioned.
“While this may attribute to their increased concern about remaining competitive, what is important is to determine what can be done to help drive growth and business agility into the future,” says Richard Pinker, MD of Ricoh SA.
“The study exposes the need for European organisations to review the way they work and prepare to transform their traditional way of doing things.
“Through better integration of their systems and more streamlined business processes that connect their people and their technology they can improve employee knowledge sharing, be more responsive to client needs and ensure an agile business infrastructure that is ready to meet the needs of the future.”
Interestingly, business leaders do believe they are more creative today than they were 10 years ago – although once again the optimism is lower in Europe and Africa (52%) when compared to Asia (64%) and North America (63%).
Europeans and Africans are also less positive about whether technology helps them make good decisions, with 40% believing it to be the case, compared to Asia (59%) and North America (52%).
However, there are some areas where Africans and Europeans are more confident: 65% believe that technology has helped drive open debate and discussion within their organisations, compared to 57% in Asia.  Africans and Europeans are also more confident about the role of technology in terms of improving productivity.
Seventy-two percent say they believed this was the case, compared to 59% in North America and 68% in Asia.
“It is clear that the impacts of technology are varied, a one-size approach to transformation is not possible. What is certain is change is unavoidable. The ways of working that we have taken for granted are unlikely to survive much longer. However, global readers do not forecast a workplace where decisions are made entirely by computers or robots just yet,” Pinker adds.
“The future shows great potential for humans to benefit from more creative and informed decision making, supported by technology, effective business processes and new ways to share and access information. If African business leaders master a truly connected and efficient workplace, just imagine what can be achieved on top of what has already been experienced today.”