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Many strategies that have worked elsewhere have failed dismally in Africa because business owners have failed to recognize that Africa has a very different landscape and frame of reference to the rest of the world. Not being attuned to the consumer or neglecting to tailor strategies could mean that businesses are overlooking valuable segments of the market.” – Lwandile Qokweni, development director for sub-Saharan Africa, Carat

 

Would you buy a brand-new iPhone for a fortune or you’d rather get its second hand? I guess your reply would depend on how much you have to spare and if you even like the iPhone brand. Although, whether you like it or not may depend on its price.

This is a natural consumer behaviour. We want to buy our money’s worth. Even if you are as rich as Gates, you would still want to buy a phone you trust to be worth your cash. Nobody likes waste – why do you think Gates is rich anyway? This is just one small aspect of the purchasing behaviour of a typical consumer. In this article, we would be looking at the psychological undertones of consumer behaviour – in Africa.

According to Reinaldo Fiorini, a huge part of Africa’s growth comes from the rise of the consumer. This opposes the myth that the growth in Africa only comes from resources. But looking statistically, the rate at which consumers have grown obviously has a huge impact on the growth in Africa as a whole. “Africa presents over 40% of the population growth in the world,” said Fiorini. At around one billion people, Africa’s population growth is of considerable interest to consumer companies, and is set to grow by 50% in the next 20-30 years, according to recent studies.

As observed, Africans spend a lot more than people in places like Brazil or India, creating an opportunity for consumer-facing businesses around the globe. This means establishments of businesses that focus directly on the consumer have been created. For example, there is that clothes plug on Instagram where you shop for affordable outfits, or the minimart not far from your home where you purchase toiletries and foodstuff. The interest of these businesses is the interest of the consumer. As long as the consumer is satisfied, they are satisfied too. The fact that Africans are in just about every country in the world and spend more, gives the opportunity for businesses to be more consumer-oriented. But in order to embrace these opportunities, companies need to understand two things: who are Africa’s consumers, and how do they think and behave?

Research has revealed that more than 50% of Africa’s population is below the age of 20. For retailers, this is a key factor to consider. According to Fiorini, only 25% of African consumers above the age of 45 years care about jean brands. This is a relatable fact today. How many times have you seen Big Daddy wear denims? Maybe the coolest he can get is to wear just a pair of slacks and a t-shirt. But for younger people between the ages 16 and 24, according Fiorini’s survey, more than half of them believe jean brand is important. If you’re within this age group, you might think so too, because why would you go to a party in slacks? So, the retailers see that the consumer is emerging from what they’re normally used to and therefore, have to understand how these new people think and behave in order to be effective in sales.

There is the belief that the majority of African consumers are hopeful and aspirational. According to a research survey, 55% of people feel like their lives are going to be better. What is even more shocking is that in Ghana, 97% feel that their lives are going to better in the next two years. The definite time frame surprises even me, this is what I like to refer to as indefinite optimism.

Furthermore, a large portion of the consumer population is saving money each month. About 72% make an effort to save every month. What is interesting about this is that only about 26% of these consumers are saving for an emergency. The rest (about 46%), according to Fiorini’s research, are saving for large purchases.

Television and radio are rated as the most trusted channels for the influencing of consumers to make certain purchasing decisions. An interesting observation has been made over time that people listen to their family and friends when they are about to make a purchasing decision, but in truth, they actually ignore them. (I remember ignoring my brother when I wanted to buy my first used iPhone, and I ended up making a terrible choice), In a place like North America, people actually listen to their friends when about to make a purchase or when asking for recommendations. But here in Africa, recommendations are asked for, but typically, individuals get easily influenced by adverts on radio or television – which is why sellers have taken advantage of these very platforms.

In addition, Africans have proven to be loyal to brands. Especially in West Africa, people are very loyal in apparel. African women in particular, are incredibly loyal to local brands. It is the same tailor Mummy Praise goes to sew all her “owambe” clothes. Likewise, Hannatu is obsessed with Bobrisky’s clothing line. This says something about a loyal customer who unknowingly encourages her producer to do more, do better, and perhaps charge more.

In conclusion, Africans have an interestingly different way of purchasing products but, of course, still within the general scope of human behaviour. Despite this fact most business-related topics are focused on Western countries, Africa’s consumer behaviour, as we have seen, has made many researchers intrigued enough to make studies, surveys, and researches, regardless it is a business disaster to plan for the African consumer without an African marketing strategist in the room.

The mind of an African consumer is an interesting concept in business we need to continually talk about, In the subsequent articles, other aspects of this topic like “why we buy?” would be considered.


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I'm a Strategic Communications Expert with over 9 years industry experience. I own unilagefiwe.com and olubayopaul.com; a widely published writer and a fluctuating Graphics Designer

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