Ask most South Africans what they expect in 2024, and you’ll get comments about Eskom, elections and tightening budgets.

But what are tech business owners expecting in 2024? Here are some predictions for the coming year?


The US economy will continue to affect funding for startups

“What happens with the dollar, the rand, the Federal Reserve and US interest rates will continue to affect South African businesses,” says Charlotte Koep, chief operating officer of insurance platform Root. “That interplay makes quite a big difference to capital availability into emerging markets and riskier asset classes like venture capital, a major source of funding for local startups.”

The global minimum corporate tax rate of 15% also takes effect. This OECD initiative increases taxes on companies with earnings in low-tax jurisdictions. As part of the deal, multinational companies will pay more taxes than they do at present in countries where they have customers and less in countries where they have headquarters, employees, and operations.

Koep believes the US could lose tax revenues as a result of this, which may further complicate the macro-economic impact of its finances on South Africa and other developing economies.


Conflict – and its business consequences – are the new normal

Whether it’s Ukraine, the Middle East, civil disobedience or other geopolitical conflicts, war and its effects will continue to have an impact on businesses. With globalisation increasingly coming under scrutiny, some business owners have made peace with fragmented supply chains, as countries become more inward-looking.

Koep believes that there may well be a further shift towards very localised delivery of services, focused on individual needs.

“In the insurance field, we expect an increase in the number of insurance products available for climate- and war-related risks, as well as more insurance for crime and cybercrimes. We’re already seeing a lot of movement there, but specialist providers will come to the fore, including specialist insurance providers for AI-related crimes.”


AI will be everywhere – and more real than ever

AI has certainly created a new security scare for organisations, with Gartner projecting double-digit growth across all segments of enterprise security spending for 2024. But there is more to AI than that. In particular, generative AI (GenAI) is expected to play a more business-centred role in 2024, going beyond hype to deliver real value.

Research house Forrester believes the greatest risk is to wait, hoping that someone else will figure out the way first. GenAI will be “the fulcrum that businesses rely on to enhance, empower, and engage employees and customers — with or without you. Embrace the misstep, and think big,” it advises.

Nic Laschinger, chief technology officer of Euphoria Telecom agrees, saying that in 2024 enterprise GenAI solutions will be helping companies to surface the data they have in their systems – and use it better.

“For example, the data in your telephony system which tells you which customers call most often, which never call, and what they ask when they call. Using GenAI, companies will be able to extract that for use not just by the call centre teams engaging customers but other areas of the business that need to have better insights into your customers and their needs and behaviours,” Laschinger says.

Ryan Falkenberg, co-CEO of conversational automation specialist Clevva, adds that virtual agents boosted by GenAI are almost able to pass the Turing test – when you won’t be able to detect whether you are talking to a human agent or a virtual agent.

“There is a lot of local interest in how GenAI can be used to improve customer service and general business effectiveness. GenAI, combined with conversational orchestration tools, now allow us to have human-like conversations that can stick to the rules. It’s a major shift from the days of frustrating, limited chatbots.

“As virtual agents’ capability grows, so does their reach. In 2024, expect to be having a conversation with a virtual agent via WhatsApp, website chat, in app and even voice channels, increasingly in the language of your choice,” Falkenberg advises.


How businesses get paid will become visible and useful

The IDC’s top 10 future consumer predictions for 2024–2029 include a positive outlook for established digital services, such as video, audio, and social media, which are expected to continue to grow. It expects consumers to spend over $1-trillion a year on digital goods and services by 2029, signalling tremendous opportunities in the consumer market.

As omnichannel and unified commerce take further hold in online businesses, expect that payment service providers will consolidate their services to better assist businesses with both their online and offline payment systems, says Sandeep Chagger, chief operating officer of payment platform Peach Payments. “This will extend to global dashboards being made available to group companies in multinationals.”

He believes instant payments, such as PayShap in South Africa, PesaLink in Kenya, PAPPS for Pan African payments and MauCas in Mauritius will continue to grow in popularity.

Also, although controversial, he expects payment via crypto currencies to increase – which may affect OECD taxation programmes for crypto assets. The OECD’s global tax transparency framework for reporting and exchanging information between tax authorities about crypto assets is expected to be fully implemented by 2027, with work on deployments gaining momentum in 2024.