In the business world, infrastructure plays a huge role in just about every aspect of a company's operations. But when you're a global performance measurement company, you don't side-step markets simply because they're more challenging to work in. Instead, you roll up your sleeves, identify client needs and then buckle down to help them succeed.
It also doesn't hurt if you have someone like Jackie Nyanjom leading the charge.
Jackie, managing director for Nielsen East Africa, refuses to dwell on the myriad challenges within the region that many would presume insurmountable—an underdeveloped road system, the lack of centralized data sources and scattershot internet wiring. Instead, Jackie only sees opportunity, which makes her the perfect advocate, while her outgoing personality makes her a client's best friend.
"The landscape and infrastructure are very challenging—the markets in Africa are at very different levels of modernity," she says. "But Africa is the new frontier. As challenging as it is, you can't claim to be global—you can't claim to reach everybody—if you're not in Africa."
While Jackie's outlook on business in Africa is as upbeat as it is infectious, she understands that the road ahead is largely uphill. But this is where her drive to help others truly shines, as she stands firm in her belief that those who take the time to understand the market and help it grow will be rewarded in the long run—right alongside the clients she works with.
Gathering data in Africa is far from seamless. The digital evolution is underway, however, and that's having a marked impact on Nielsen Africa's ability to stay ahead of the curve. In many ways, Jackie says that not having an existing tech infrastructure was an advantage in that regard because there were no legacy hurdles to overcome once digital and mobile tech came online.
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But the evolving digital landscape hasn't fully cleared the path forward. Without the foundation of an established infrastructure, Africa remains its own microcosm with macro difficulties. The continent is a sprawling place, and Jackie's team needs more than digital and mobile connectivity to keep track of consumer purchasing habits and data usage the way other markets do.
"Getting data from the field is quite a challenge." Jackie admits. "What we need to do to collect data is very different from elsewhere. Therefore, every day and every market presents a different challenge."
But those dramatic market challenges bring out the best Jackie, and it's what sets her—and Nielsen—apart. How? By creating personal connections and deploying her immense knowledge of the region and how to succeed in its varied markets.
These people skills are crucial, and they serve as a vital connector in an ecosystem that lacks an established infrastructure. And over time, those interactions have transformed client relationships into partnerships. That’s what makes Jackie a pioneer in the region. Her expertise, skill set and personality have been instrumental in building trust with a steadily growing base of clients and developing true paths to growth in the face of extraordinary headwinds.
"Over time, we grew our database of information," she explains. "As clients became interested, we moved them from having a basic understanding about Nielsen to them wanting more. And in the last 10 years that I've been around, I've watched the data—and the value of data—change quite vastly."
Africa's markets are changing quickly. Are you ready for what's next?>
Over the past decade, African markets have become more complicated and competition has increased, both of which have boosted the stakes for businesses. It's also increased the importance and relevance of the knowledge, background and data that Jackie and her Nielsen team now have at their fingertips.
Data and market knowledge aside, Jackie's people-forward persona remains her greatest asset. In fact, clients often call her for advice and perspective on topics that don't have anything to do with Nielsen services. It's that level of trust and partnership that has propelled her as a leader within Nielsen as well as within the local business community.
"Clients want to be sure that you have their back," she says. "Our clients are human beings. They want to look good in their companies, they want to succeed. So they're looking for partners who are experts in what they do and are available to them to cover their backs. We build trust and then a partnership. This is what we do as a company—we say we're there for you."
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