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Why local knowledge is key when
​doing business in Africa

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Why local knowledge is key when doing business in Africa

The possibilities for companies who seek to share in Africa’s growing markets are on the rise. Those who are serious about doing business in Africa need to do the long-haul work required in order to be successful. Here are five key tips for those who want to start up business or work in Africa.

1. Different cultures

History is an important aspect as it impacts the behaviour of individuals. Africa was mostly colonized by Britain, France and Portugal and after a while the colonized nations adopted French, English and Portuguese as their languages. Kenya has a strong British and English culture while Algeria and Gabon are predominantly French speaking. Even though all three of these countries are on the African continent, their cultures are distinctly different. Tradition, religion and family are strong influencers in any society and before launching a new product or service into Africa, it’s important to investigate where these might be better received.

2. Adopt an inside-out approach

It’s important for brands to understand the African consumer, their unique context and needs. A “one-size-fits-all” approach is losing relevance – not only in Africa, but globally with consumers in general looking for personalisation. Income levels vary greatly in each market and are the determinants of consumption patterns, habits and affordability. When it comes to marketing, literacy levels need to be considered. For low literacy level regions, radio and outdoor billboards might be more relevant than online media and print. Only those brands that understand African attitudes and archetypes will survive. Brands that create a uniquely African story will better connect and establish bonds with African consumers.

3. Invest for the long-term

Even though African economies are growing at a fast pace, many are still small (by comparison all Sub-Saharan economies together are smaller than many European countries). It’s important to be realistic, so don’t expect big volumes and returns from the outset. There are three hurdles that are especially important to get over: the complex political and regulatory context, developing an operational parameter and developing local talent.

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4. Identify your local connection

Local contacts are the key to navigating complex processes such as approvals and regulations to getting access to local resources such as locations, licenses and managing local talent. Due to the growing opportunities in the B2B and B2C space, especially in sectors such as consumer goods, IT and professional services, it’s always better to partner with a local who can guide and advice you for making the best possible decisions.

5. Grow trust, be patient and persevere

Attend local business events where you can network, meet people, share your expertise and learn from others. Essential services such as the delivery of electricity, water and transportation are often missing in Africa, even in large cities. For this reason, it is important to build up a contingency plan in your personal or business plan so you can reach your goals.

Setting up and operating businesses in the various African markets requires local knowledge and understanding of the different markets down to detailed levels. When planning to enter Africa’s growing markets, ensure you get the right expertise on-board to facilitate the process.

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