Time to act

Moving from good to great in times of uncertainty and digital transformation

Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Private Business Survey 2019

EMEA Private Business Survey

Private businesses in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa continued to generate strong revenues in 2018, but leaders are more cautious about future prospects this year. One way to guard against a downturn is by using digital transformation to unlock growth, and most business leaders recognise that digitalisation will have a major impact on the long-term viability of their business.

But when it comes to understanding the full potential of digitalisation, companies still need to raise their awareness of critical technologies (what we at PwC call the “Essential Eight”) and the scale of change needed. That’s likely to mean increasing investment.

To prepare for digital transformation, owners and managers should take a fresh look at three key areas:

  • Board composition: transformation starts at the top. Private companies need to make sure their board members are knowledgeable about the technologies that are crucial to the business

  • Staffing: the right skills. Private businesses need to get savvy about what skills will be needed in the future and how to access them

  • Financing: funding the transformation. Entrepreneurs should consider looking beyond internal cash flow

View the regional findings below and explore results with our data explorer. More detailed analysis, commentary and implications are provided in the full reports where you can also subscribe to receive our upcoming Africa and Middle East regional reports.

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The Essential Eight

To help companies focus their emerging tech efforts, we analysed the business impact and commercial viability of more than 250 emerging technologies to zero in on the “Essential Eight.” These are the core technologies that matter most for business, across every industry, over the next three to five years. The Essential Eight are the technology building blocks that we believe every organisation must consider. While each company’s strategy for how to best exploit — and combine — they will vary, these technologies will have a profound global impact on business, employees, and customers.

The Essential Eight technologies that matter most for business today:

Artificial intelligence, Augmented reality, Blockchain, Drones, Internet of Things, Robotics, Virtual reality, 3-D printing


Regional findings

Digitalisation holds the key to growth for Europe’s private businesses - but how can companies make it happen?

Most private business leaders in Europe see digitalisation as important for their future. Leaders already understand some of the ways it can provide technical fixes, for example for supply chain issues, and some are using some key technologies, like robotics and IoT solutions. What’s still missing is a greater awareness of the broader range of key technologies - artificial intelligence, or AI, stands out as one important example - and an understanding of the scale of change needed.

A closer look shows that some countries are ahead in using these critical technologies - and the countries leading the way aren’t always who you’d expect. Take a closer look at our regional results to find out more.

Explore the European findings

Private businesses in Central and Eastern Europe enjoyed strong profitability last year, and most leaders expect growth in 2019 as well.

The outlook is particularly strong in Eurasia. 64% see digitalisation as very important to the future viability of their business, and they’re especially convinced of the possible impact of digitalisation in areas like process automation. Fewer respondents are viewing digitalisation more holistically, though, and using data analytics to enhance customer understanding, or taking a fresh look at the business model and designing end-to-end solutions. There are exceptions, though, like Slovakia and Romania, which lead the region in recognising the importance of both these areas.

Explore the CEE findings

Skills shortages are having an impact in the Middle East, but companies have strategies to cope

While the private business leaders we surveyed in the Middle East still reported good levels of profitability, overall both profitability levels and optimism about future revenues were somewhat lower than in Europe. That may be due to the impact of skills shortages - almost 90% report losses in potential revenue as a result. While more than half of companies believe they have the talent they need in-house to drive digitalisation, many are also looking at more diverse ways to access and develop talent.

For example:

  • 28% say they collaborate as a way to access the talent they need to benefit from digitalisation

  • 59% are working with start-ups to upskill their people

  • 45% report that staff leasing is very important to access the skills needed to advance digitalisation and implement new technologies

Explore the Middle East findings

African private businesses are highly optimistic about their business prospects

A full 84% of leaders in Africa expect their company’s revenues to improve over the next year - notably higher than in any of the other regions in EMEA. Around half say they’ll diversify into new business operations outside their normal operations. And they expect digitalisation to help drive this growth too -- 81% see it as very relevant for their business, compared to 65% in Europe. Leaders aren’t just talking about digitalisation -- they also plan to invest at somewhat higher levels compared to results across EMEA. The biggest challenge in getting it done isn’t cost restraints, although those are having an impact too, it’s actually culture and resistance to change.

Setting a strong “tone from the top” can help there, and three-quarters of companies tell us they look for specific expertise like digital when selecting external board members.

There are still hurdles to be faced though, like the negative impact of uncompensated expropriation of land.

Explore the African findings

Explore the data

Use the filters below to see how survey respondents feel about key issues effecting their organisations. 


Explore the data. Select a country to explore the findings.

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“Digital transformation is disrupting every corner of the economy and private businesses are no exception. Digital transformation is key to unlocking the next stage of growth and have a fighting chance of growing faster when the next upturn comes.”

Peter EnglischGlobal Family Business and EMEA Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, PwC Germany

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Peter Englisch

Peter Englisch

Global Family Business Leader and EMEA Entrepreneurial & Private Business Leader, Partner, PwC Germany