Being home to 11 of the 20 most rapidly growing countries, Africa has become the fastest moving continent in the world. The significant progress made in the ICT sector has led to increased mobile phone penetration across the continent. By the end of 2017, almost 50% of the African population owned a mobile phone. As a result, many local entrepreneurs have taken the opportunity to tackle social issues with innovative mobile solutions.
The fact that Africa is the first continent to have more mobile phone users than fixed-line subscribers attests to the continent’s digital revolution. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Africa has become the world’s fastest-growing mobile phone market. The continent’s mobile phone usage has increased by 65% over the past five years, which is twice the global average.
Mobile services are expected to continue their expansion, particularly due to two prominent factors. Firstly, a large part of Africa’s population still lives in relative poverty. Hence, the costs associated with stringing up telephone wires are not economically feasible. Mobile phone networks, on the other hand, are not only cheaper but also much faster to establish.
Secondly, the setup of mobile phone networks has defied environments which are generally hostile to investments like regions stricken with warfare and natural disasters. Somalia, for instance, has built up a vibrant mobile industry without having a central government for over a decade.
Similarly, and despite continuous political turmoil, mobile markets are flourishing in countries like Congo and Liberia. The rapid expansion of mobile services is introducing the African consumer to new opportunities, which also open the doors to new innovations, such as products based on voice-enabled devices like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa.
Targeted ad campaigning is a good method to ensure that the word about your brand reaches the correct audience. A thorough market analysis about the target audience will prove fruitful in order to design ad campaigns which directly address their needs and interests. To ensure that the brand shows up in related search queries, incorporating Search Engine Optimized (SEO) keywords in your website content will help you in a long way.
SEO keywords are the words that internet users, looking for a particular product or service, will most likely enter into their search engine. The greater the number of organic SEO keywords, the more likely it is for your brand to appear in the top ten search engine results, thus significantly improving your brand’s online visibility.
The majority of Africans who have access to mobile internet are also active on social media, thus making it a perfect platform for companies to effectively market their brand. Social media allows brands to use rich media like images, audio, and interactive visuals to illustrate the benefits of a particular product or service. A well-developed social media campaign not only improves customer engagement, but can be designed to specifically reach the company’s target audience, thus making it more efficient and cost effective.
Getting recommended by a social media influencer, such as an athlete, artist, or media personality can also bring credibility to a business, particularly if it is still in its early phase. Getting a product endorsed by a celebrity and posting the pictures of the celebrity using it on social media, can further increase brand awareness and ultimately result in increased revenue.
Entrepreneurs who choose to build and grow their business in Africa bring innovation and economic growth to the continent. However, for a business to make the intended impact, it is important to thoroughly understand the socio-economic dynamics of the target market. Africa is known for its diversity with respect to language, culture, religion, and pace of development.
It is, therefore, important for entrepreneurs to conduct extensive market research before investing in a particular market. Not only do they need to understand the local factors inspiring consumer behavior, but they also need to derive ways to develop their business model in a manner that complements those parameters.
When it comes to establishing a business in Africa, entrepreneurs need to act local and think global. Identifying local problems and developing globally viable solutions will contribute towards a long-term relationship between the enterprise and the consumer. Developing a synergy between these two elements also holds the key to the future economic progress of the continent as a whole.
The economic boom which amongst other things, led to the increased mobile phone penetration, has had both long and medium-term effects on the African society and has significantly transformed the manner in which people communicate and carry out their daily tasks. People are more likely to use mobile internet as opposed to using it on a computer system, mostly because mobile phones are cheaper and easier to carry around.
For a business to flourish in any African economy, it is important for business owners to perform a thorough study including factors like population density, economic growth, GDP, internet penetration, spending habits, and the state of foreign investment. While some economies are sparsely populated, others are relatively denser, thus providing investors with greater market and labor potential.
Before investing in a particular economy, understanding which sectors contribute the most to a country’s GDP is yet another important factor to consider. Identification of these sectors helps in determining which industry generates the highest yields.
Africa is on its way to becoming a digital economy. With innovation hubs and free Wi-fi hotspots dotting the continent’s major cities, the African population is becoming more and more aware of the options available to them. For this reason, performing thorough research on the internet penetration and the involvement of its middle class is a prerequisite for setting up a business.
Conducting research on the patterns of internet consumption can provide some meaningful insights to potential investors and business owners too. Before starting any business, it is important to understand which products are in demand in a particular market, and how they perform. A thorough understanding of these factors can be acquired by understanding the factors that influence people, and which products or services would interest them the most.
When it comes to online businesses, it is important to understand how people consume content online. This gives an idea of their behavioral habits and plays a pivotal role in determining the market response of a certain product or service.
While doing business in Africa, it is also important to determine how your product or service can benefit the particular country. Furthermore, entrepreneurs must bear in mind that products or services which are popular in other parts of the world, might not necessarily be as relevant for this continent.
Africa is not only defined by its sparsity across a variety of industries, but it is also defined by its history of colonialism, warfare, and political unrest. In this regard, a number of African countries are still making daily efforts to improve their socio-economic landscape. Further, several landlocked countries are defined by inaccessible terrains, which makes it challenging to access a variety of basic products.
These aspects make Africa a unique market which has its own defined demand for products and services. So, the products that might be popular anywhere else on the globe need not necessarily be popular in Africa, for the sole reason that Africans do not have the necessity for that particular item. For a business to succeed in the continent, it is therefore crucial to understand the people’s needs, in order to be able to provide solutions for those needs.
Once the market research has been performed and the business model is prepared, the next step in execution is to hire people. For foreign entrepreneurs, hiring from the local talent pool has various benefits. Not only does it promote diversity within the company, but it is also a strong statement of support to invest in the country’s growth through the creation of jobs. Secondly, local talent will have a better know-how of the factors influencing the consumers, thus helping businesses in creating more effective marketing strategies.
One of the challenges of running a successful business in Africa is to encourage people to try new products or services. The African market is fairly concentrated and has started branching out into new domains only recently. The average African consumer is used to living a simple life and engages in commercial activity for mostly the products that they need. To add to this, the general lack of exposure further adds to their wariness towards unfamiliar products and services.
However, as depicted by the increasing rates of mobile penetration and online services, African consumers are becoming more interested in trying products that add values to their day-to-day lives. Therefore, providing products and services that directly address the needs of the consumers or offer more cost-effective versions of existing ones are the key to running a successful business in Africa.
In summary, operating a company in Africa is a culmination of three deciding factors: the right product, focus on customer needs, and the right market approach. The right product is one that not only has market potential but directly addresses the consumer needs.
Once the target market is identified, the next step is to tailor the business strategy to attract the right customers. While the exact steps will differ from one segment to another, there are some general pointers. Advertising is one of the key tools to generate awareness about a business.
The increasing popularity of social media in Africa makes it easier to reach the target audience. Social media platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube can be used to directly address the target audience. Not only are the African consumers waking up to the opportunities of the online market, but they are also responsive to the factors that influence these markets.
Further, the online domain offers a variety of products and services that have the potential of positively transforming the day-to-day lives of the people. Investing in products that directly solve problems coupled with targeted marketing strategies will prove effective in raising awareness and building a local brand.