Business & Economy

African consumers are becoming savvier

African consumers are becoming more discerning
African consumers are becoming more discerning

With over one billion consumers—a number growing faster than that of any other continent—Africa boasts a wealth of potential. The young and quickly growing population, paired with a rising gross domestic product (GDP) that has grown faster than the rest of the world every year since 2001, make Africa a vital market brimming with opportunity.

Traditionally viewed as an impoverished continent with little discretionary spending, Africa’s middle class is growing at an astounding rate and the GDP per capita (PPP) has grown 26 percent in the past 10 years. With its steadily rising incomes, Africa offers vast potential and rewarding growth opportunities.
Africa’s consumers are growing in numbers and in buying power, and, like consumers around the world; they have a demonstrated demand for products that meet their needs. On average, half of all household spending in Sub-Sahara Africa goes to consumer packaged goods.
‘The diversity of consumers and markets within Africa is staggering, but it presents tremendous opportunities for those who properly understand and navigate this complex marketplace,’ says the latest research by Nielsen Emerging Markets Insights. Marketing and promotional activities are essential when entering a region or expanding brand presence, and Africa is no exception. But what’s the most effective way to reach Africa’s consumers? And how can marketers ensure they’re delivering messages and products that resonate?
The research found that when it comes to advertising, Africa’s consumers are most aware of traditional channels, with broadcast (83 percent) topping the list, followed by outdoor (78 percent) and print advertising (65 percent). Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) are aware of mobile advertising, though most mobile advertising across the continent is still text messaging/SMS based because the majority of devices consumers own are feature phones. Consequently, only one-fifth (19 percent) of respondents are aware of online advertising.

Consumers in Africa are receptive to marketing messages
Consumers in Africa are receptive to marketing messages

Consumers in Africa are receptive to marketing messages. Nearly half (48 percent) of consumers interviewed said advertising has significant influence on their purchase decisions. Some 38 percent said that promotional activities, ranging from in-store displays to value packaging to special offers, motivate them to buy more of a particular product—and even give preference to that product over other brands.
One-third (34 percent) of consumers interviewed also said they buy more of a product or give preference to products that they know engage in corporate social responsibility programmes or practices. That figure is significantly higher in some markets, like Rwanda, where 53 percent of consumers said corporate social responsibility (CSR) influences their purchase decisions.
Understanding behaviours, attitudes and influences is essential to tap into Africa’s diverse set of consumers. Nigerian consumers in urban centres, for example, may share some commonalities with urban consumers in Angola, but they’re certainly not identical—this is why brand owners and marketers who want to successfully connect with consumers in Africa should shy away from a one-size-fits-all approach.
In fact, consumer understanding is most effective when it extends beyond simply determining the proper messages and media mix to include product innovation and development. A Nielsen analysis found that products developed or tailored specifically for Africa’s consumers achieve a success rate of 40 percent, well above the standard 10 percent.
‘Many business leaders, economists and investors believe the African continent will continue to post impressive organic growth in the coming years. Leading that growth will surely be the companies that invest in developing programmes, products and plans that keep the diverse set of Africa’s consumers as their beacon,’ Nielsen noted.

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