Many multinational companies have built successful product categories and brands among African consumers by educating shoppers and adapting to local market needs. For instance, Dufil Prima Foods created a $400 million market from scratch in Nigeria by marketing its Indomie instant noodles as nutritious, affordable, and easy to prepare. In South Africa, Nestlé hired distributors to make its products available to consumers at the bottom of the income pyramid.
In contrast, some global health initiatives have had difficulty finding a market in Africa. For instance, an independent evaluation of the Affordable Medicines Facility–malaria found that although the cost of artemisinin combination therapies had come down in some African markets, a lack of availability and awareness among consumers had impeded adoption. Similarly, despite the efforts of many organizations to prevent HIV by providing condoms, condom usage is actually declining in many parts of Africa—a decline attributed to supply issues and inadequate awareness of the related health benefits. Interventions for nearly all diseases and health conditions in Africa—from malaria and HIV to diarrhea and other tropical diseases—have had problems with uptake and impact.
Although global health organizations such as NGOs, government agencies, bilateral organizations, donors, foundations, academic institutions, R&D institutions, and public-private partnerships have greatly improved the living conditions and life expectancy of Africa’s most vulnerable populations, much more still needs to be done—especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The underlying drivers of the global health burden are complicated, but three major factors often hinder the adoption of health interventions: limited awareness of the disease and its prevention or treatment; limited access to prevention or treatment due to distance or stockouts; and a lack of affordability caused by out-of-pocket clinic fees, the cost of products, or the cost of transportation to care providers.
Consumer products companies face similar obstacles, yet many have been able to reach African consumers and win their loyalty and hard-earned dollars. What are these companies doing differently? To find out, BCG analyzed how they develop a market for their products—even when their target populations have limited disposable income. (See Winning in Africa: From Trading Posts to Ecosystems, BCG report, January 2014.) We supplemented this research with findings from our recent Africa Consumer Sentiment Survey of nearly 10,000 consumers at all income levels across eight African countries. (See Understanding Consumers in the “Many Africas”, BCG Focus, March 2014.) The survey covered key areas such as consumer spending, budgeting, brand awareness, purchasing behaviors, advertising impact, and the influence of other media. (See “2013 Africa Consumer Sentiment Survey Methodology.”)