Marketing In Africa


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A view that South Africa can provide the entrepreneurial, academic, intellectual and research inputs that can make Africa globally competitive.

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Marketing In Africa

  1. 1. Can South African marketers be the “Intel Inside” for African globalisation?<br />For us as South Africans, Africa is our new frontier. <br />South Africa was built-up by the pioneers within the mining industry to be the powerhouse of Africa. <br />It now faces its next major challenge. <br />This challenge will be far less about bricks and mortar or physical labour - it will lie in our ability to provide the entrepreneurship, academic and research intelligence for African globalisation. <br />This may sound idealist, but some of our companies are already doing this.<br />As with South Africa when it discovered gold, the economies of most of the fastest growing countries in Africa are based upon natural resources like oil, gas or mining. Amidst the resources boom, there are countries like Mauritius and Rwanda where the growth is driven by decisions to diversify their economies, yet these are in the minority. Like in SA more than a century ago, resources still drive Africa – and resources remain our greatest – and easiest accessible - asset. Yet resources have within its availability and accessibility its own weakness - it undermines longer-term economic diversification and beneficiation. You sell cheap raw materials and buy expensive products and services. <br />Yet, for now, the resources boom is good for Africa. It is its first step to become part of the global economy. We grow largely because Asia grows and needs resources. <br />So where does this African growth leave South Africa? <br />Our economic growth rate lags that of many African countries – in many ways, it seems that we can only decline from here. Our mining sector is not in good shape – we missed the last resources boom and it seems clear we will miss the next one. Our crime rate is the highest in Africa. We face high levels of government corruption. Our labour legislation works against becoming competitive. Many of our manufacturing sectors like textiles cannot compete with the East. It feels that we can only wait to see when countries like Nigeria, Mauritius and Kenya overtake us in sectors like mining, tourism and banking. Kenya Airways now flies to more African destinations than SAA, inconceivable some years ago. <br />It is not that we as SA do much less now - it is just that many African countries do more – and they do it faster – than us. Whilst they are accelerating, we are stagnating. <br />This is not dissimilar to the position that faced Singapore in the middle nineties. Their growth started stagnating and they realized that they were no longer able to compete on labour productivity with other countries in South East Asia, India and China. This was one of the drivers for them becoming an economic powerhouse. Even being a global airline and port hub was being challenged by cities like Dubai. Now they were only one of many Asian countries, with a small population, a high standard of living - and hence high rate of wages - and no natural resources and land. <br />But they reviewed the strengths they did have, and leveraged it to create another boom for Singapore. <br />Singapore refocused on key growth sectors – but more importantly, they recognized their role as a potential driver for skills – academic and scientific research and development for countries like China - leveraging their strong base of people skills and expertise, global multinational head offices and excellent academic and research institutions. <br />And it worked. They are now the “Intel Inside” for many Asian economies. <br />South Africa is in very much the same position today. It seems as though we had our boom. From here it is just bust.<br />It need not be that way. <br />As the most advanced country in Africa, and the one with the highest academic standards, excellent research institutes like the SABS and the CSIR - and the best infrastructure, I really believe we can be the entrepreneurial, intellectual, academic and research and development capital of Africa. On top of that, we have entrepreneurial companies that are driving the growth in many African countries, just compare MTN, Standard Bank, Shoprite, Massmart, Tiger Brands, Absa, FirstRand and AngloGold Ashanti. Now the JSE wants to promote African companies listing here. Then we have development initiatives like the IDC and the Development Bank in place. <br />In some ways, some of our companies are already the engine room of Africa. Their expansion is opening-up the continent for others. <br />Within SA, we have the skills, expertise and entrepreneurship to drive African globalisation. <br />But do we have the will? <br />Doing business in Africa is not easy. <br />For the last five years, I have traveled and worked extensively in Africa and The Middle East – and I have worked with many people who do it all the time. <br />It is very exciting to see what is taking place in Africa. Many have high growth rates, albeit from a very low base, infrastructures are being built at lightning speed, their populations are eager to learn and progress, places like Kigali in Rwanda is cleaner than Johannesburg. Africans see themselves part of the new world. Whilst the lack of infrastructure, unstable politics and high levels of corruption remains the three key problem areas that hold Africa back, its people are already seeing themselves as the new China. <br />It is a sad irony that so few South Africans really know about the transformation that is taking place in Africa. Best of all, the opportunities for us as marketers, are exceptional. <br />At this juncture in our lives as Africans, we obviously face many opportunities – and have many challenges. One of them is that SA, and Africa, is a lost continent with little future potential. That by being here and staying here puts us at a huge competitive disadvantage in our future careers. <br />Yet, that is only one side of the coin. <br />The future growth now lies in emerging economies. Many believe Europe will never again attain the economic power it once had. Predictions are that some European countries will show a real decline in their standard-of-living in the next ten years. <br />I believe we can play a leading role in making this continent come alive. We have the skills, the empathy and the clean slate, to do this. And most importantly, we come from here. I find it gives you a huge advantage – Africans are proud of other Africans that do well, like many of them will talk about us hosting the 2010 World Cup so well. There is an immediate empathy, maybe because we all share so many challenges that are bigger than any one of us. If you come from the US or Europe, you do not even relate to some of these challenges. <br />To do this we need to create a new view of the future. And we need to see what is happening in Africa for yourself. You will be amazed – it will be in stark contrast with what you see on CNN! Like the UAE attracted the best architects and engineers in the last ten years, Africa will provide the opportunities for new pioneers. Hope and change are invigorating – Africa offers much in that regard. <br />There are more than 750 million people in Africa. If you travel in Africa, you will see the eagerness, sophistication and abilities of people, who are as frustrated as we are with government non-delivery and corruption. These people have hope for the future. Many of the African graduates who emigrated years ago are now coming back. And despite the huge problems, there are exceptional people and exceptional opportunities. MTN has become one of the largest global telecommunications operators within a short sixteen years. They did that by leveraging their competence established within South Africa – and they did it whilst larger global multinationals like Vodafone and Orange have been far less successful in Africa. <br />Africa remains a continent where we export cheaply and import expensively. To change this will require a mind-shift. This mind-shift is largely intellectual. Although natural resources is good to get us going, create basic jobs and pay for infrastructure, that alone is not enough in the long run. We need to establish diversified economies with value added products and services in Africa, able to trade with the world in goods and services they will desire and pay for. We need to create real economic value. To do that, will require entrepreneurship, intellectual, academic and research insight. <br />As South African businesspeople, students and academics, we have a huge opportunity to assist Africa to become the next global powerhouse. <br />What I can tell you that if we take this challenge up, it will be one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself. <br />Jim Collins said that you can have a “paint-by-numbers” version of your life, or that you can start with a clean slate and create a masterpiece. I think Africa gives us the opportunity to create a masterpiece. One that is open to us all. Driving a cause beyond our careers, gives us a fundamental sense of purpose. Making Africa succeed goes way beyond a single job. It will multiply human potential. <br />