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9 simple insights to drive successful business growth in Africa

Published on: 15-Jan-2015

Over the next five years, Africa will rise as the emerging market hotspot with growth expected to be two-to-three times more than in developed nations. The simple fact is seven out of the world’s top ten fastest growing economies are in Africa. 

Rapid urbanisation and the growing middle class are being fueled by substantial infrastructure investment and increased connectivity with reduced access costs. Grabbing the lion’s share of opportunity in Africa requires an intimate understanding of regional and individual country growth drivers. To win, brands must think like the king of the jungle and capitalise on these key insights from TNS’s in-market business intelligence experts.


1. Be fiercely focused 

Each of Africa’s unique and vibrant countries are proud of their ambitions, languages and cultures. The small but emerging middle class is growing incredibly fast. Technology savvy, globally progressive, well-travelled and frequent trendsetters, the middle class is a growing pool of disposable income with a hunger for goods and services beyond the very basics. 

2. Connect with the environment 
Africa’s unique retail environment nuances must be carefully understood. Modern trade in many markets is limited whilst distribution can be slow, complicated, uncompetitive and expensive. Tap into entrepreneurial tendencies by engaging locals to build your brand and distribution. 

3. Know your competition
Be prepared for stiff competition. Brand commitment and loyalty is very strong making market entry tough. Local manufacturers are very price competitive, agile and easily able to mimic the offers of favoured large international brands. Your product or service must offer an advantage over the longstanding players.

4. Foster your young
Africa’s median age is just 17 and focused on the future; for a life better than their parents. There is very little nostalgia. Traditional western youth themes of music, fun and pleasure will fail as will the European trend towards returning to authenticity. This is too close to their reality; agriculture is hard work and rural areas are poor. Urban, modern and instant success drives Africa’s youth.

5. Cultivate smart relationships
Traditional retail shopkeepers are instrumental to brand building as they are perceived as experts by consumers. African shoppers build trusting relationships with traders and whilst informal trade allows illicit and counterfeit brands, those with strong retailer partnerships can overcome this.

Numerous cell phone vendors and small repair shops are found along Nkrumah Circle in Accra © Arne Hoel / World Bank

Numerous cell phone vendors and small repair shops are found along Nkrumah Circle in Accra © Arne Hoel / World Bank

6. Make your mark
POS material must be highly visual with respect to lower literacy levels. It must be practical and offer utility to traders. Include brand assets that provide assurance and trust, especially in markets plagued by counterfeit goods. The trade environment is highly social, so activations must target traders and market day shoppers.

7. Empower your community
Education is the highest ideal for most Africans and considered crucial to a better future. In fact it is often the key to a secure future for an entire family. Social responsibility programs including development and entrepreneurship skills that contribute to the communities they serve will do well to tap into this core need.

8. Respect all sizes
Many Africans are not paid a traditional monthly salary but receive erratic income as entrepreneurs or from piecework. They still seek desired brands but need them in affordable sizes and price points. An assortment of pack sizes is essential with options like penny packs key to driving repeat purchase and loyalty.

9. Simplicity is king 
African consumers have long been neglected. Low literacy and the vast array of ethnicities and languages must be considered when developing above-the-line communications, POS and packaging. Foreign brands that appropriately tailor messaging and activations will be more successful as they are perceived as being higher in quality. Simple, clear and consistent brand messaging resonates.

Brands that have made their mark in Africa have stretched themselves beyond functional messaging by building value through compelling communication of benefits, consistently delivering an emotive connection and making a meaningful impact into people’s lives.

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