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What Global Health Can Learn from Consumer Companies in Africa

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  • 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.”)

    2013 AFRICA CONSUMER SENTIMENT SURVEY METHODOLOGY

    For more than ten years, BCG has conducted an annual Global Consumer Sentiment Survey to gather information on consumer behaviors and trends across many countries. In 2013, for the first time, we added several African countries to the survey, enabling comparisons across the continent and with other emerging markets, such as China, India, and Brazil, as well as with mature markets. Altogether, the global survey reached 40,000 consumers in 25 countries and was conducted in 20 languages.

    In Africa, we surveyed nearly 10,000 urban consumers in eight countries: Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. Respondents represented a mix of consumers of different ages and income and education levels. The survey explored topics related to income, spending, and budgeting; technology, mobile, and Internet usage; preferred retail-shopping locations; and banking habits.

    The survey also assessed planned expenditures, trading up and down, brand preferences, and shopping behaviors in more than 20 product categories, including: automobiles; baby and toddler products; beauty care; beer; breakfast cereals and foods; chocolate and candy; clothing, footwear, and accessories; coffee and tea; consumer electronics; hair care products; health care; home appliances; insurance; mobile phones and devices; packaged food; restaurants and out-of-home eating; snacks; soft drinks and other nonalcoholic beverages; spirits and other alcoholic beverages; and wine.

    Note: This sidebar originally appeared in Winning in Africa: From Trading Posts to Ecosystems (BCG report, January 2014). The Global Consumer Sentiment Survey is sponsored by BCG’s Center for Consumer and Customer Insight and funded by the firm’s Global Advantage and Marketing and Sales practices.

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