Five tips to get your business noticed in Africa

After more than 17 years of experience advising multinationals, regional champions, governments and non-profit organisations in Francophone Africa, Kwame Senou is now the executive chairman of The Holding Opinion and Public (THOP). THOP is a leading integrated communications holding company composed of the creative agencies Gazelle Touch, Opinion and Public and MPA Digital. He shared tips and lessons learned with Business Insider on how to help companies grow and get noticed in Africa. 

Think long-term and strategically

Over the past three years, THOP has operated in 18 of the 54 countries on the continent. And one thing they always keep in mind is to think strategically. Experience has shown that the mistake most companies make when entering the African market is needing to grasp all the nuances and disparities of the continent. Or, as Kwame put it, “treating Africa as a monolith that needs one strategy. With so many cultures, languages, and geographies, it is important to have a regional or country-specific strategy, with some initiatives that can be cross-country.

Growth in Africa would be the result of a long-term strategy that includes people and communities.

When developing a strategy for Africa, consider the multiple challenges (lack of data, cultural intelligence, government policies) but keep in mind the trillion dollars of opportunity there. There are so many areas to invest in. And Africans are increasingly specialised and professional. Make them part of your business.

Create relevant offers

Africa has been described as the fastest-growing continent for foreign direct investment, which is ideal for investors. While there are many opportunities to build businesses, note that these solutions must fit the African market. What works in China or India may not work on the continent. 

One of Kwame’s key advice is to create relevant offerings for the continent through learning and innovation.

“I have observed that the recent trend is to invest in fintech and anytech. However, Africa has so many gaps to fill that you can find growth opportunities everywhere, like import substitution, private education, healthcare, and logistics. The growth lies in solving current problems, focusing on the consumer, and creating pricing points that maximise purchase frequency rather than one big win.”

Find the right balance between traditional and digital marketing

According to Statista, only 17 out of 54 countries have an internet penetration rate above 50%. This shows that while digital adoption is growing, there is still a gap. The digital divide is more pronounced with women on the continent, and we know how consumption is centred (especially for families); they drive it.  The industry leader recommends a nuanced approach led by a traditional approach. Companies need to combine the power of communication with the efficiency of distribution to make their products or services known. Many great products fail because they are unknown. For example, mobile money services on the continent are building a network of agents and merchants to leverage the power of digital money to create economic value, employment and more. Africa may be increasingly connected, but for now, it is not advised to have a fully digital strategy and communication.

Build partnerships

Africa is a complex continent. It is crucial to look for partners to reduce risks or share information, especially when you are new to the market. Partnerships for complementary capabilities, for access to data or channels.

“Businesses need to build partnerships to tackle the challenges. In the same way telecom networks on the continent work, entrepreneurs should develop this mindset instead.”

Strategic partnering is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to enhance a brand, expand your market, generate new leads, increase revenue, and grow your business. 

Ask for help

As Maxwell’s famous quote goes, “teamwork makes the dream work” you need the right team on your side. “Companies need to talk to experts who can take them to market for success, and we have seen some of our clients achieve formidable results because of this.” 

In addition to the advice they can provide, having experienced external experts on board can help your business quickly adapt to market trends and stay ahead of the competition. And with a company like THOP, which has employees from all parts of Africa, comes with a wealth of experience and unique perspectives that you may need.