Brands are increasingly turning their sights to Africa as the next source of fast growth, but what are the challenges of launching on the continent, and how can marketers reach such a diverse range of consumers?
The dynamics of the global economy are shifting apace. With uncertainty in developed markets such as the UK, the US and Europe, many brands are looking beyond their traditional customer bases in search of new opportunities and sources of growth. Africa, the world’s poorest continent but also the most untapped by consumer brands, looks set to benefit.
Africa is of course a huge landmass with massively varied conditions across its countries. Where some parts remain ravaged by war, famine and poverty, others are experiencing accelerated economic growth, urbanisation and a rising middle class. There are estimated to be more than 2,000 languages spoken, and individual countries and regions have their own distinct cultures.
The World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse report in September noted that some countries had registered sharp “slippages in economic growth” last year due to factors such as low commodity prices and domestic political problems. At the same time other countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania “have continued to post annual average growth rates of over 6%”. Meanwhile, the Brookings Institution reports that the number of urban residents in Africa nearly doubled between 1995 and 2015 and is projected to almost double again by 2035.
Within this economic climate many western brands have been growing their presence. According to a recent report by African Business magazine, non-African brands have increased their share of African consumer markets in recent years to reach a dominant 84% in 2017. Non-African brands account for 84% of the top 100 most admired brands in Africa, and 99.3% of the most valuable, it adds.
Starbucks, H&M, Facebook and Business Insider are among the brands to have launched or opened offices in Africa in the past two years, while western marketing groups have also grown their footprint on the continent. Last year WPP launched the WPP Africa Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, a talent development project that helps WPP’s African subsidiary companies to access training programmes.
As brands turn their sights to the African market, they must strive to understand a continent of diverse people and conditions that is becoming increasingly confident in its own creative self-expression.
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