Five must-know African consumer trends to run with in 2014

4. Africa (collabo) rising 
Why in 2014, savvy African brands will continue to rise by collaborating with others

Branded collaborations remain infrequent and thus novel, and many African customers welcome these partnerships with open arms. Not only do they satisfy their longing for new products and services but also because it provides the opportunity for them to revel in the status boost that comes from accessing, indulging in and sharing brand experiences that were often previously inconvenient or inaccessible.

Recent years have seen more and more African organisations reach a level of global excellence, most notably within the telecoms and financial services sectors, such as MTN, FNB, GTB (familiar brand acronyms, right?). For leading brands existing within these sectors, there’s a call – if not an expectation – from their customers for them to do more, offer more and bundle more products and services.

As a result, in 2014, expect leading telecoms and financial services brands to meet this desire through collaborations with two main types of partners:

1. Domestic brands
Despite the continent’s boom, many local brands in other industries lag behind and at times lack the capital or resources to efficiently reach or deliver services to their ever-more expectant target market. Consumers therefore will welcome telecoms and financial services companies that use their networks and distribution channels to deliver new, much-needed products and services alongside their own, as MTN did with Kenya Airways below.

2. Global/ non-African brands
Global brands seeking to connect with the hundreds of millions of eager African consumers are also cushioning their entry into local markets by teaming up with established domestic brands. And since many of Africa’s mobile and telecoms giants struggle to differentiate themselves from each other, offering the best of the best via global partnerships can often provide a much needed marketing boost for them too.

Want to get going with Africa (collabo) rising? Why not kick off a brainstorming session and start dreaming up collaborations that bring something genuinely new, useful and, of course, needed to consumers. And think beyond just telecoms and financial services brands, from traditional offline organisations with online startups to quirky brands with prevailing incumbents.

Whatever you come up with, in 2014 expect to see fearless African brands looking to reach new consumers via more divergent, less obvious and yet mutually beneficial branded relationships. Make sure you don’t get left out!

Airline launches mobile ticket payment service: August 2013 saw MTN Uganda partner with Kenya Airways to allow customers to pay for airline tickets using MTN’s Mobile Money platform. Customers can make reservations through the airline’s website or office in order to obtain a reference number, which allows them to then make payment via their mobile device.

Orange signs South African retail partnership: In June 2013, Orange Horizons (a subsidiary of Orange) announced a partnership with South Africa-based telecommunications brand Nashua Mobile. Via the partnership, Nashua Mobile stores will offer Orange products at locations in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

5. Remotely great
Why great brands will be rooting for the hard to reach in 2014

It goes without saying that the continent, from Lagos to Luanda, is rapidly urbanising (according to the United Nations Population Division, sub-Saharan Africa’s 3.6% annual urban growth rate is almost double that of the global average). Despite this, at 63%, the region’s population remains predominantly rural (The World Bank, 2013).

As a result, 2014 will see exciting opportunities for global brands to experiment beyond the constraints of Africa’s often hectic and overcrowded cities, and launch inventive solutions for those in even the most remote and hard-to-reach rural African locations.

Why? Because savvy brands understand that these less developed environments can be perfect platforms for them to present their vision of Africa’s bright future and demonstrate how they intend to successfully tackle the more arduous challenges of the continent.

After all, many Africans (especially those in rural areas) are still forming their consumption preferences as they increasingly become acquainted with global brands. And in turn, organisations are realising that they can appeal to these Africans by not simply inundating them with new products but also by contributing to their society-at-large.

And this is also true for those more sophisticated urban consumers who originate from – and are still deeply culturally proud of – rural areas. Indeed, these consumers will be forever loyal to brands that share their philanthropic burden of bettering their community, and do so on a more grassroots (often literally), sustainable and ethical scale.

And of course, brands that are remotely great in 2014 won’t find themselves or their successes confined to rural audiences:

  • The sheer impressiveness of these innovations (think Google’s Project Loon or Microsoft’s use of the white space in the TV spectrum) will often excite and delight online consumers everywhere (no matter how far removed from the actual issues they might be).
  • And more interestingly, smart brands will be mindful of the opportunities to apply lessons learned in rural areas to new urban audiences. Reverse innovation within Africa? Why ever not?

White space project provides broadband access in rural Africa: In October 2013, Microsoft launched a 12-month pilot project in South Africa using white space technology to provide broadband access to rural communities. White spaces are the unused channels in a broadcast television spectrum, and via the technology, broadband with speeds of up to 2mb per second can be facilitated. The pilot initiative will also use solar-powered base stations, providing five secondary schools in Limpopo with broadband access.

Drinks brand’s portable kiosks deliver essentials to remote communities: After pilot schemes in Africa, September 2013 saw Coca-Cola announce the rollout out of its EKOCENTER kiosks. Branded as a “downtown in a box”, the kiosks use the Slingshot water purification system to provide safe drinking water for at-risk populations and also act as a community hub. Each kiosk will be run by a local female entrepreneur and offer services such as  WiFi, vaccines and education on sanitation.

The article was first published by Established in 2002, is an independent and opinionated trend firm, scanning the globe for the most promising consumer trends, insights and related hands-on business ideas.