On Feb. 27-March 1, 2015, the 17th annual Africa Business Conference, hosted by Harvard Business School, took place. The conference is a key platform for African business leaders and other great minds of Africa to meet, debate and work together to solve some of the continent’s most pressing issues.
This year, instead of focusing on the explosive growth of Africa, the conference turned its attention to the next chapter—sustaining growth. Presentations and discussions centered around creating and sustaining opportunities to generate progress for all—across socioeconomic segments, industries and gender—to achieve a multiplying effect in the economy and provide stability.
During a standing-room-only panel about “The Next African Consumer Wave: Drivers and Riders,” Nielsen’s own Jacqueline Nyanjom, managing director of East Africa, discussed the importance of understanding Africa’s local consumers. Who these shoppers are and where they shop can differ greatly from country to country.
Citing information from Nielsen’s recent “Africa: How to Navigate the Retail Distribution Labyrinth” report, she pointed out that having a deeper understanding of these local consumers is essential because brands can lose opportunities—a lot of opportunities—if they fail to get their products in the right outlets—even if they have the right product in the right market.
Modern trade is at such an early stage of development in this region that 80% of consumers still shop in traditional outlets—the most popular being a stall set-up at the side of the road or in a local market. And because these outlets are difficult to quantify and provide little data—it makes the market complex. But by breaking down our data by country and outlet (with the help of mobile innovation)—we’re able to get an accurate picture of Africa’s local consumers.
Jacqueline also discussed the major potential for e-commerce thanks to the mass adoption of mobile phones throughout Africa, which might make the data easier to obtain and analyze. But, she said, while mobile e-commerce might have strong adoption in the future, significant infrastructure challenges in the region must be overcome first.