Africa, one continent many worlds


It’s been a while since my last post, apologies, testing times in Egypt plus I was focusing on my fast during Ramadan, more recently, I was in South Africa! I usually reside in Egypt and went to discover South Africa’s magic.

Africa is not one big poverty-ridden continent, contrary to some perceptions and images portrayed by some media outlets, the image of the starving child and disease is not representative of all countries, yes, there are poor countries, however, many are abundant in natural resources like gold, gas, petroleum and minerals.  As well natural resources, these countries benefit from tourism and have a host of developing diverse industries e.g. agriculture, manufacturing, banking and telecommunications. The World Cup was hosted in South Africa in 2010, boosting its profile as a tourist destination, the government also invested in local infrastructure to accommodate, impacting the local economy and jobs, for example construction.

Countries also benefit from access to global capital markets and receive foreign direct investment which aids growth. The BRIC is forming strong economic ties with Africa, particularly China.

Many countries in Africa have large populations, e.g. Egypt has a population of approximately 85 to 90 million, which forms a large domestic market, this includes a large pool of well-educated youth and rising middle classes as a result of economic success.

Africa consists of 54 independent countries and understanding the continent or individual countries is not a simple task, it requires research, exposure and business experience. North Africa and South Africa, albeit on the same continent, are worlds apart. They’re different in terms of ethnicities, culture, traditions, languages, religion, history, politics and business opportunities. I cannot stress how important it is that businesses and marketers recognise each country in Africa as unique and as individual markets.

Various countries in Africa are up and coming, as a result of political stability, reform, privatization, openness to trade and investment. Some countris in North Africa have recently become unstable post the “Arab Spring” however, these countries are eager to regain stability, attract tourism and continue to grow economically, political stability, however, is a prerequisite, hopefully this is a short-lived transitional stage. Countries in North Africa must also be regarded as unique markets and what’s currently occurring in Egypt does not represent what’s happening in neighbouring markets. Also, the global mass media can exaggerate the situation on the ground, after all bad news sells.

Businesses, in developed markets, are looking for growth from countries in Africa, in the face of tough competition in home markets; African markets can offer good return or investment, new customers and clients.


It’s key that any international marketing strategy treats each stand-alone market with a unique approach, this begins  with marketing segmentation. The countries in Africa cannot be clumped into one region or market. There are less developed countries in the region as well as more advanced countries in terms of: living standards, consumer demands, business maturity, expertise and levels of sophistication in Internet marketing, for example.

In my book, I discuss the market attractiveness model, which helps business strategists and decisions markers to segment regions, to classify countries, markets and industries according to business attractiveness vs. a businesses’ own capabilities in doing business in these market.

When I worked for Cisco 2012, we classed South Africa as an “A” market, it was a key market for  business growth  in the region, Nigeria and Egypt were classed as “B” markets, at the time. These were considered attractive for various reasons, e.g. wealth, natural resources, ease of doing business, growth rates  in GDP, stability and various other positive business and economic factors.

This segmentation determined marketing investment, budget allocation and resources in terms of teams and dedication. Other markets in the region were classed as C markets, or tertiary and treated accordingly.

Each business experience will be different as well as the ROI, sales and growth.

Targeting and business models:

Once the individual markets/ countries have been segmented, the next decision is to decide which countries to operate in i.e. the target markets, and how to do business with these markets i.e. export, partnering or e-commerce.  This is where the investment commences and implementation takes part.


This is perhaps my favourite topic, perhaps because I’m a bit of a traveller and different cultures inspire me. Marketing strategy and communications need to be tailored to local markets, products and solutions need to meet local pain points and marketing needs.

Ethnicities, cultures and needs are starkly different from north to south and this should be reflected in marketing campaigns, creative and communications. The look and feel of communications and languages will differ completely. In the continent, major business languages include French, Arabic, English and Portuguese, of course using the wrong business language in marketing communications has huge implications for business results.

Egypt is predominantly a Muslim country which also has an impact on marketing and sensitivity,  the main religion in South Africa is Christianity, in Islam alcohol is prohibited, although it’s available in Egypt and accessible, this for example may be a consideration when doing business with the market, i.e. it may not be acceptable to serve alcohol at an event.

The wonderful Internet:

Social media is booming in the region, again each individual market has its own popular network/s, in Egypt and South Africa alike, Facebook and Twitter are popular. In general, growth in Internet penetration in the region and certain markets has accelerated in recent years due to investment in infrastructure and wireless. This is a new means to reach new markets and to test tailored, localised campaigns easily in comparison to offline. Social media has been instrumental in the communication during social uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, having a well-defined and planned social media strategy can help to establish brand awareness; build a contact database and to establish sales or generate leads.

Using the internet to reach markets in Africa is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, including the well-known benefits of digital, which I need not write about here, one major benefit is that it’s more reliable than traditional direct marketing, for example, the postal infrastructure in Egypt is less developed in relation to western markets and therefore you can count on an email arriving over a piece of direct mail.

The benefits are also that you can test messages and localised campaigns and track responses and receptiveness from local individual markets at low-cost.

The Internet is a strong marketing tool, however, it’s important to combine it with other media channels which to an extent depends on the demographic or fimographic.

Doing business in international and emerging markets is not easy, there’s a lot to be learnt, each market is unique and requires dedicated investment in terms of resources, there is a high level of risk, however, rewards can be high. As I mention in all my articles, learning is key and partnering with knowledgeable local businesses is invaluable.

Thoughts and prayers for Egypt as it currently goes through its political growing pains and here’s to a prosperous future.

Categories: Emerging Markets, Global Marketing, Localisation | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Africa, one continent many worlds

  1. I think with these markets handling the exporting business and investment commences more will surely show positive implementation.

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