African game changers for growth

Posted: May 30, 2014

by brand development and marketing insight consultancy Added Value South Africa’s managing director, Lynne Gordon

The mobile revolution is changing the landscape in Africa – but perhaps not in the ways you’d expect.

Marketers around the world will list mobile amongst the top forces driving growth and transformation for brands and consumers.  Bringing connectivity to every moment, and making access to information personal and immediate, mobile is arguably the single biggest force changing the way we think, consume, and interact with the world today.

And Africa is no different – mobile is disrupting and transforming the continent, with 253 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa connected to mobile.  In South Africa, almost 9 out of 10 adults own a mobile phone.  In Uganda, there are more mobile phones than there are light bulbs!  The “mobile explosion” is giving rise to a new era of informed and connected consumers from Cape Town to Cairo, creating new requirements of marketers aiming to understand and service consumers in Africa.

But talk to consumers in developed markets about mobile, and they’re thinking of apps and social networks – a world connected by the Internet in their pocket.  In Africa, the disruptive growth of mobile is not that of the Internet.  High data rates, sporadic 3G coverage and the dominance of feature phones shape a very different experience of mobile – one where the Internet remains available to a select few, but where mobile remains the biggest game changer for brands looking for growth.

  •  Mobile health

Text to Change provides public healthcare services entirely via interactive-SMS service.  Their “Healthy pregnancy, Healthy baby” service in Tanzania allows moms to register via free SMS for regular healthcare tips  and information for pregnancy and newborn care, and has reached over 300,000 moms with free content covering topics from antenatal care to mother-to-child HIV transmission.  Using only SMS and voice, Text to Change reaches African communities with limited access to formal healthcare with simple, relevant content that can transform quality of life and health. All without Internet connectivity.

  • Mobile commerce

Kenya is home to what is arguably the most developed mobile payment system in the world, Mpesa, a product of Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile telecommunications operator, an affiliate of Vodafone.  Over $10 billion is transacted on Mpesa each year, about 25% of Kenya’s GNP 4!  The magic of the service? It works entirely without Internet connectivity, and enables over 17 million consumers to transact on any handset in the market on Safaricom’s network, withdrawing and depositing money at over 65,000 registered Mpesa outlets, typically in petrol stations, corner stores and Safaricom outlets.  Is this simply banking for the unbanked?  I’d argue not – driven by its simplicity, accessibility and affordability, Mpesa is the new currency of Kenyans across the socio-economic spectrum.

  • Mobile advertising

Without broadscale reach for Internet staples of mobile websites, Facebook homepages and twitter feeds, brands in Africa also need to rely on accessible technologies to deliver wide-reaching brand engagement.  Carling Black Label, a leading beer brand in South Africa, understands the power of mobile engagement to reach their consumers. The brand partnered with South Africa’s soccer giants, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, to launch the ‘Be the Champion Coach’ campaign, which allows consumers to become the coach of their favourite soccer team, all via mobile. With a unique code on each bottle, fans enter codes via text on any mobile phone, and select their favourite players. After a twelve week campaign the votes are in, and the fans’ chosen teams take to the field for a real life derby match, with teams chosen entirely by mobile. The results?  Over 20 million votes tallied in 2013, and now in its fourth year, the campaign engages more and more consumers each year.

  • Conclusion

Brands are learning fast to create truly innovative ways to bring their brands to life on mobile as it continues to change the way we live and work.  Just two questions remain for marketers looking for growth in Africa: Am I using mobile in meaningful, scalable ways to reach and engage my consumer?  Or am I being left behind?