Many consider Africa to be the final frontier for a business looking to grow its brand's presence. After all, it boasts 54 countries spread out across a landmass double the size of the United States.

There are anywhere between 2,500-3,000 languages and a rapidly growing population of 1,1 billion people. All this makes the continent an intimidating market, if not only an opportunistic one. The continent is predicted to account for 1/5 of the world's population by 2025.

There is also an estimated GDP increase (outpacing every other global market) from 4.9 to 6.2% in the next ten years. These are only two factors that make the African market such an ideal business venture at the moment. Africa is also undergoing rapid urbanization.

Analysts predict nearly half of the continental population will be living in cities by the end of that same ten years. Additionally, there is growing affluence among consumer demographics aged between 18 and 35. The overall spread of Internet access provides even more opportunity for businesses to grow their market.

Overall, many general factors contribute to the emerging economies of the African continent. However, many regionally specific obstacles are present for any brand hoping to branch out into Africa. While the specifics may vary, there are a few general themes that encompass these complications.

Violence and political instability

A diverse array of political systems are at work throughout the African continent.

Some have authoritarian regimes and violent conflict. These severely impact the economic development and growth of their nations. This makes it nearly impossible to import or export products into these areas. For any business, it's important to first research the political climate as well as the economic markets.


Modern road systems are present in nearly every African city. However, 2/3 of Africans lack access to a paved road available year-round and less than 2 km away.

Only about 30% of the entire African population has electricity, as well. This results in high transportation costs that directly impact product distribution. The lack of electricity severely limits the marketing done through electronic devices.

Linguistic diversity

There is a low literacy rate of 30-60% in many regions. Also, there are a plethora of spoken languages. These present an interesting advertising challenge. Business approaches must account for these linguistic differences in their marketing.

Consider various modes of visual communication to reach the majority of consumer groups.

Independent retail

Most Africans shop local. They purchase products from independently owned kiosks or stores in their own neighbourhoods. New businesses in the market must compete with loyalty to local brands.

As well, they must account for the increased labour and potential difficulty in distribution.

Variable consumer practices

Regionally, different consumer groups in Africa usually make markedly different buying decisions. Some areas use a search and comparison approach and shop around for the best product. Others simply rely on the products most immediately and readily available to them. Those in the latter group prove an obstacle for new brands to establish a foothold in the market. Those in the former breed fierce brand competition. They require evolving strategies to outperform any other brand's approach.

The variability of consumer groups is where an advertising agency can be of significant help. An advertising agency with a global focus will be especially helpful. They can help bridge cultural and linguistic gaps between the enterprising business and local market. A global agency also will have an arsenal of marketing techniques to reach consumers of all demographics. They will offer anything from traditional billboard and print advertising, to SEO and even movement marketing.

Data desert

There is relatively little research available about most regions in Africa apart from the major cities. Many companies account for this by applying data from the nearest metropolitan area to these data deserts. However, this often only produces an inaccurate perspective on the marketing approaches needed to infiltrate these areas.

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