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Ten Things to Know About African Consumers

Capturing the Emerging Consuming Class
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  • Despite significant diversity across the continent, emerging consumers in Africa share a number of common traits.

  • African consumers are optimistic, sense progress, are heavy users of the Internet and mobile technologies, and expect a balance of quality and price.

  • African consumers are also entrepreneurial and ambitious, tend to save, share, and support one another, and are sensitive and loyal to international brands.   
 

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Africa is not easily pigeonholed, and making generalizations about its consumers is a risky proposition. The continent has 1 billion inhabitants—speaking more than 2,100 languages and spanning 54 countries that cover an area larger than China, the U.S., India, and Europe combined. Despite this diversity, one thing is clear, however: a new consumer class is emerging across Africa—one with increasing purchasing power and a hunger for products and services that once seemed unattainable. For forward-looking companies, these growing markets will be worth well over $1 trillion by 2020 and will offer access to millions of new customers.

Through our extensive work and travel across the continent, we’ve met and talked with many of these new consumers about their dreams and desires, as well as their product and brand preferences, purchasing habits, and other consumer behaviors. We were struck by ten characteristics that these consumers shared in common; each has implications for multinational and local companies.

1. Optimism About the Future—and a Sense of Progress

Over the past ten years, growth in Africa’s GDP has surpassed worldwide averages, fueling optimism and a sense of progress among consumers on the continent. Consistently, African consumers shared phrases such as, “This generation has it much better than our parents’ generation did,” and “The economy is much better today.” Urbanization is one factor driving progress and opportunity. As one young man told us, “My life today is better than life was for my parents...they lived in villages, we live in cities. City life is much better: cities have amenities, more development, more knowledge.” Although we understandably found less-optimistic consumer sentiment in regions that have experienced political turmoil over the past two years—in North Africa for example—the vast majority of Africans believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

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