Africa – and more importantly, African consumers – will be firmly on the global stage in 2014.
And while the ‘traditional’ African narrative of hardship and struggle will still contain elements of truth (macro-scale challenges such as the lack of constant electricity or underdeveloped manufacturing industries won’t disappear overnight), there will be huge opportunities on the continent for creative, daring and savvy brands, both domestic and global. The key to taking advantage of these? Understanding – and then catering to – the new desires, aspirations and expectations of Africa’s enthusiastic, optimistic, yet-too-often frustrated consumers.
Trendwatching.com recently identified five must-know African consumer trends for the coming year.
For Africa By Africa: African solutions to African challenges done the African way
It goes without saying that Africa is truly rising. And alongside rising incomes (throughout the high end, the middle classes, and for ‘new’ consumers), in 2014, confidence and pride will rise, too.
Today, both domestic businesses and global brands creating products for Africans are realising that, in order to offer real and relevant solutions, their offerings must reflect those customers by adopting as many region-specific features, elements and quirks as possible. Because for more conscious consumers, not only are FABA innovations, products and services more suited to their needs, but in many cases, they are also closely linked to ethical and/or sustainable business practices. This is especially true when these offerings make use of local resources such as homegrown talents, workforces or materials.
Next for FABA? In 2014, the most absolutely FABA-ulous products and services will attract the attention of consumers everywhere. Watch out for ingenious, wallet-saving, resilient and/or sustainable African solutions, competing with their global counterparts. Yes, even more competition, on an ever-more global scale.
Lager features traditional African ingredients: Early 2013 saw international brewer SABMiller introduce its second cassava beer on the continent with Eagle Lager in Ghana, in a bid to cater to local tastes. Instead of barley, the lager is made with indigenous cassava, a tuber which is grown across Africa and is a traditional staple food in many African diets.
Diesel and EDUN’s Studio Africa collection showcases creative African talent: October 2013 saw fashion labels EDUN and Diesel collaborate to launch their second Studio Africa collection. This collection is made from raw, untreated denim, which is woven from cotton sourced from EDUN’s Conservation Cotton Initiative in Uganda, and is manufactured in Africa. The creative project is also designed to promote young African talent, with the latest campaign featuring three musicians from across the continent.
2. Mobile roaming
The other ‘mobile’ to watch in Africa in 2014
Like everyone, Africans want to be able to plan and execute their journeys affordably, enjoyably, reliably and conveniently. Yet Africans seldom have much to boast about when logistics, transportation and mobility are being discussed on a global scale.
But in 2014 the continent’s steep economic growth will mean more of its inhabitants on the road, exploring and doing business with each other, sharpening the need for improved transportation options.
Driving this trend are:
- The emerging middle classes, who will travel more than ever, and often via new methods; and
- The continent’s wealthier – and therefore more demanding – consumers, who will increasingly no longer feel the need to constantly make arduous journeys overseas when able to obtain similar experiences and to make and spend money, all locally.
And while no single brand will solve the gargantuan issue of mobility, many startups and organisations will apply new technologies and models to remove some of the challenges from the African transportation experience, and even the way Africans approach the issue of transport altogether.
Expect 2014 to pave the way for a boost in commuter freedom, logistical flexibility, and better (in both senses: more effective/ efficient and higher quality) travel options as new systems, vehicles, amenities, services and novel apps begin to take shape. But no matter what industry you’re in, think about how you might jump onto this trend and ride it successfully.
Mobile site and app feature real time transport information: After a pilot programme in Cape Town, South Africa in October 2013, FindMyWay launched its public transport information service across major South African cities including Johannesburg and Pretoria. The service enables public transport passengers to access information on the FindMyWay mobile site or free mobile app. Information on major transport providers such as arrival and departure times as well as pricing and maps are available via FindMyWay.
Rwanda-Uganda coach service features free WiFi connection: July 2013 saw Rwanda-based Jaguar Executive Coaches equip its fleet of buses with WiFi connections. Available across the company’s 24 buses, passengers can access WiFi with a speed of 21.6mb per second. Jaguar Executive Coaches offers a shuttle service between Kigali and Kampala in Uganda.
3. Civil info-nation
Why Africans will embrace even more accurate, empowering, objective and timely information in 2014
The inherent human need for reliable, unbiased information is universal. But for many years, both transparency in governance and objective news reporting have not been a luxury afforded to most Africans. Today however, online activism across the continent is catalyzing a new wave of optimism in media platforms. These organisations are empowering citizens to learn about, discuss, investigate and react to what is going on around them like never before.
This year’s online social movements, from the Zambian government’s unsuccessful attempts to shut down a local whistleblower publication, to the “They don’t dictate to us. We dictate to them…” remarks a South African broadcaster made towards DStv (one of Africa’s biggest satellite networks), prove that citizens are willing to support media organisations that are prepared to boldly take power into their own hands when governments are not up to the task.
As citizens of Africa’s emerging civil info-nation continue to lap up unbiased, engaging, timely and comprehensive information about current affairs, in 2014, even brands that aren’t specifically information brands should think expansively about what information and knowledge they could distribute, in what format, and to which audiences. And the (totally unsurprising) common feature of successful civil info-nation brands? They are those that use information to educate, enrich and better consumers’ personal lives and communities.
And of course, those thinking further ahead will already be considering how information transparency, access and objectivity will reshape consumer expectations around alldimensions of business practices and behaviour. Because once the info-genie is out of the bottle, consumers won’t want it to be put back.
Mobile network customers can access Wikipedia for free via SMS: October 2013 saw Airtel Africa and the Wikimedia Foundation announce a new service to provide the mobile network’s customers with access to the Wikipedia site free of charge. As a result, approximately 70m Airtel customers across Africa can view Wikipedia content on their cellphones without having to pay data charges. Wikipedia also began the pilot of a service sending its content via SMS to Airtel users, meaning that even individuals with basic cellphones can access information.
Social website offers information on public budgets and projects: November 2013 saw Nigeria-based financial organisation BudgIT launch Tracka, a social website designed to increase transparency and enable consumers to track public budgets and projects in their local community. Based on open, public data and integrating social media tools, Tracka allows Nigerians to share information, images and videos, make comments on projects and engage in an open online discussion with other interested individuals.