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There’s a long road to recovery ahead, which will doubtless see brands face new challenges and opportunities in Africa, and in Kenya and Nigeria in particular. KATE NJOROGI and NDEYE DIAGNE look at how findings from Kantar’s Global Business Compass can help brands navigate the unknown.

With CMOs under increasing pressure to prove the effectiveness of the strategies they’ve put in place for the coming months, evidence-based decision-making is more essential now than ever. Kantar’s sub-Saharan Africa findings emanating from our Global Business Compass can help brands navigate the unknown with insights to contextualise, align and inform their recovery strategies in 2021 and beyond.

We conducted several global studies over 2020, talking to 4 500 clients across the globe, to help our clients navigate the crisis. The Covid-19 Consumer Barometer study stretched across 60+ markets to provide insight into people’s reactions to the coronavirus and the implications for brands. In addition, the Covid-19 Business Compass research focused attention on the impact of the pandemic.

Let’s dig deeper into how businesses in sub-Saharan Africa are responding to the crisis, with emphasis on Kenya and Nigeria, and what brands and marketers need to consider now and do next…

Business concerns pronounced

Concern about overall business performance is markedly more pronounced in Africa compared to the global average. Nevertheless, the same types of worries prominent in the rest of the world are also of concern on the continent – reduced demand, financial hardship and operational problems.
This reflects the fact that consumers mirror those worries in becoming more price conscious and inclined to save rather than to spend. For example, by August 2020, 87% of Kenyan households and 76% of Nigerians had their incomes negatively impacted, according to our Barometer survey.

Despite the drastic impact they’ve felt, businesses in Africa still expect a quick recovery. Perhaps a case of misplaced optimism, as 74% of businesses on the continent expect a new balance within six to 12 months, yet eight out of 10 are currently in a downturn. It’s a tension that needs fast resolution – but many businesses are simply not doing what is needed to actualise this recovery.

For example, while most leaders know online spending will increase, only half are investing in ecommerce capabilities.
This may be a result of the fact that marketing, media and research budget cuts across the board have been more frequently and keenly felt in Africa than the global benchmark, highlighting the conflict in needing to manage the short-term while planning for the long-term. This means that budgets now need to work harder than ever, as there’s greater pressure to demonstrate ROI and keep brands top of people’s minds.

The long and the short of it: Meeting in the middle on African ecommerce

Successful businesses that have actually seen their bottom line impacted positively over 2020 are the ones that have taken this to heart. As 72% introduced or increased ecommerce capabilities, 64% pivoted to adapt to the new conditions by forging new partnerships and implementing new supply chain processes while 41% made future-focused investments in innovation and marketing, even going so far as to increase staff hires in these fields in Kenya.

But ‘fail stories’ are often more compelling warnings than the successes, so it is worth noting that the businesses that have been most negatively impacted are those that focused on short-term, panic-based solutions such as cutting all discretionary spend from budget to investments. These were also the companies that put on their blinkers and reduced innovation while implementing lay-offs and hiring freezes.

Don’t follow in their cautious footsteps. Instead…

Looking ahead, there’s a 91% expectation that online spend as well as time dedicated to digital activities will further increase in Africa, so businesses can stand out on meeting this new need for ecommerce. This has already proven to be a priority in Kenya, while the focus in Nigeria is on new customer channels and go-to-market strategies.

That is, after all, the new normal and the top growth priority for 2021, no matter if vaccination distribution is prioritised or if there’s a delay and we face further lockdowns. So, in answering where businesses need to focus for future growth as we forge our way into the new year, the answer is clear: Play an increased role in supporting society and/or government, focus on digital transformation and provide better access to data, and show internal support of what your employees are going through by providing mental health support in your organisation.

In doing so, you’ll find that you’re wearing the right business armour to absorb and deflect where needed when it comes to the top three macro-forces currently in play.

 

Three strategic action points to realign your brand purpose in 2021
1. No room for ostrich brands: Fit into the flux of the new world

This is all about pressure to support diversity, sustainability and community, as well as a long overdue global reckoning with racial equality that, pandemic notwithstanding, brought millions of largely Gen Z protesters into city streets across the world. The Nigerian case serves as a prime example of the African Gen Z mindset in action.

While these cultural changes are inevitable, remember that different parts of culture are changing at different speeds and to different degrees, so for brands to ensure a continuing fit with this shifting culture of consumer lifestyles, they need to find fresh yet authentic connections that tether them tightly to these evolving needs and aspirations. Diversity and sustainability must be front and centre, as well as Africa’s push for local culture and the Covid-induced need for effective signaling of hygiene.

 2. Your digital business heartbeat: Balance the human with the tech

Savvy companies are realising it’s not an all-or-nothing situation, but rather about reaching the right balance between the fast-tracking of digital transformation, virtual connections and the forced surge of ecommerce with that all-too-human desire to step offline and return to the physical world we miss. So, while ecommerce is definitely important, remember that the consumer mindset remains local. Traditional remains king in Africa.

3. The 2021 business toolkit: Agility, efficiency, empowerment and responsiveness

The unexpected success of remote working has sparked a wide-ranging re-evaluation of the workplace with fresh approaches being taken to help society to work, connect, communicate, consume and shop in a holistic omnichannel environment to build a better society for all.

It’s a long road to recovery ahead, which will doubtless see brands face new challenges and opportunities over the horizon. That’s why adapting to the new consumer needs of today is crucial to honing your brand’s true north in 2021.

Whatever your approach, remember that consumers in Africa expect products and messages tailored to who they are, what they care for and the environment they live in.

BIO
Passionate about people, Africa and insights, Ndeye Diagne currently heads Kantar’s Insights Division in Nigeria and Ghana. Always pushing boundaries to help brands in Africa grow faster, Ndeye holds a strong record of delivering winning growth strategies for leading brands across the continent. As chief commercial officer at Kantar East Africa, Kate Njoroge is responsible for driving client-centricity and impact, as well as commercial profitability and growth. Her enthusiasm for personal development as well as emotional intelligence, leadership and coaching shines through her big-picture focus on life.

 

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