12 May 2015

In Africa, Success Is Mobile

Written by N.G. Onuoha, Journalist and Publishing Editor, Africa.com

You are officially open for business, and you’re wondering how to draw your first customers. You try traditional routes such as word-of-mouth, radio ads and billboard posters, but none of your marketing methods are bringing in the numbers you want. You even build a website, but the engagement numbers are lagging.

In today’s business market, the average entrepreneur can tell you numerous stories about their efforts to grab the attention of a potential customer. A Gallup poll published in December 2014 shows the number of people who currently own a business in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased between 2011 to 2014. The survey found 22 percent of the region identify as an “entrepreneur.” 

In Africa, marketing to people across the continent has become a tricky game -- success seems only for the brand with the biggest budget or the who's-who roster of supporters. Fortunately, within the last decade a cheaper, more direct channel for business marketing has emerged: mobile.

There is no ignoring Africa as a global hub of the mobile revolution. The widening access to cell phone technology has attracted large corporations such as IBM and Microsoft; created opportunities of social conscious innovators; and kept Africans in the more rural villages connected. It is the second-largest market for mobile, and the continent has embraced the technology, completing tasks such as farming and banking with the ease of a ‘click’ and ‘send.’

A Pew Research Center study titled “Cell phones in Africa: Communication Lifeline  and published in April 2015, highlights the leapfrogging of the continent. Researchers surveyed Africans living in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in 2002. They followed up in 2014, and data shows a spike in all countries, including Kenya which began with 10% cell phone ownership and jumped up to 82%, 34% of which are smartphones.  

East Africans have arguably been the biggest consumers and integrators of mobile, leading a payment revolution with popular program, M-Pesa, as the foundation. In “Lions Go Digital: The Internet’s transformative potential in Africa,” McKinsey’s researchers point out the impact of digital technology on financial services. An increase in the technology could lead to an estimated 60 percent of people on the continent having “access to banking services by 2025, with more than 90 percent using mobile wallets for daily transactions and remittances.”

So why mobile for the business owner?

Sell Your Product At The Click of A Button. E-commerce is a fast-growing industry on the continent, reaping large benefits from the popularity and ease of mobile payment. Have a shirt you want to sell? How about a lodge with a great deal for travelers? Make it easy for the consumer. Allowing your customer to conveniently purchase your product will surely increase sales.

Meet the Consumer Where They Are (Literally). You will not have to wait for their car to pass your billboard on the highway, and you will not have to argue about the time slot of your radio ad. Meet your target audience where they are by making your site mobile-friendly. Incorporate tools such as social media plug-ins to keep your visitors connected to your brand.

Need help getting started? Africa.com’s Mobile Website building service is helping small businesses get online first, smart and fast. Visit go.africa.com and get started.

About the Author:
N.G. Onuoha
Ngozi “N.G.” Onuoha is  a Nigerian journalist and Publishing Editor at Africa.com.  She earned her Masters Degree from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and also holds a B.A. in English from the City College of New York (CUNY).  Ms. Onuoha has been a contributing writer and event coordinator for a number of emerging Africa-centric organizations. She is the Africa.com staff representative on the President’s Advisory Council for Doing Business in Africa and has been guest speaker for the Association of African Studies Programs at Johns Hopkins University.

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