Kathy Gibson reports – The IT market in Middle East and Africa (MEA) is almost certainly poised for a strong recovery, with a rebound already apparent in many parts of the region.

Alistair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys, says the uptick is driven by a shift to digital commerce which began in lockdown and is continuing to redefine how people buy products.

Speaking at today’s Lenovo Smarter Today virtual channel event, Edwards points out that customer behaviour is changing and this is changing how they use technology.

And, as more people return to work, there is a growing demand for hybrid working, he adds.

“What’s interesting is how we are seeing IT growth increasingly decoupling from GDP growth,” Edwards says. “In times of economic stress, businesses are turning to digital to change the way they engage customers and employees. This is more virtual and more remote, but also with more personalisation and online engagement.”

The market shifts are good news for the IT channel, Edwards believes. “We find ourselves becoming more important to customers as they build out new requirements.”

The channel is also becoming more important to vendors, as they increasingly shift to indirect go-to-market strategies.

Supply chain constraints have so far hobbled the full growth potential in the region, with supply inequality limiting the product that landed.

“If you take out tablets, the total PC market in MEA declined by almost 8%, across both consumer and commercial,” Edwards says.

“Some of this can be attributed to the strength of the market last year. But it is also down to the allocation of supply disproportionately affecting regions like MEA.”

However, Canalys reasonably confident that there will be a secondary wave of demand for PCs in the MEA region.

“This will be driven by the return to work and the need to manage hybrid working,” Edwards says.

“After the massive growth of mobile devices in 2020 to support remote working and education, we will see the return to physical offices fuelling new demands from customers.”

The shift to digitalisation and the new ways of working are adding new challenges for channel players, he adds.

“In the new environment, we think the channel needs a rethink . The pandemic has reshaped the way we engage with customers, but also how they make purchasing decision and determine which brands they engage with.”

Canalys offers six tips for resellers going into 2022:

* Become your customer’s change agent and lead with consulting;

* Adaptability and speed will define channel success;

* Managed services are a growth drivers, but must be based on trusted relationships;

* Personal interactions will resume, but digital reach is critical;

* An ecosystem culture of delivering everything alone will be increasingly difficult; and

* Sustainability should underpin the channel value proposition.