To succeed in Africa, brands must love Africa

by Guest Contributor Ndeye Diagne | October 16, 2019

Author: Ndeye Diagne

Ndeye Diagne
MD Francophone Africa & Ghana

Whenever you see Africa in the headlines, you would hardly want to be associated with the story told: an alarming military coup; an overwhelming number of dying children; a new spur of violence between 2 ethnic groups. Sounds familiar, right? The much too silent story of the African continent is a story of growth, one where people and brands do thrive.

The real story about Africa is that its economies are growing fast. Faster than the rest of the world. Seven out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the next 5 years will be African. The middle-class population (currently 35 percent of the continent) is growing in remarkable ways. These macro trends are both causes and consequences of several (positive) dynamics at play in most African markets, a story told in numbers by our new Data from Africa Life Study, comprising 5,000 interviews across six countries in Sub-Saharan markets.


In Senegal, employment level is noticeably increasing as a result of many ongoing infrastructure projects, a booming retail landscape and growing entrepreneur initiatives. 80 percent of the Senegalese urban population feel and report being optimistic about their future as consumers and as citizens.

In Nigeria, I doubt entrepreneurship aspirations have ever scored so high: today it’s more than nine out of 10 who would be ready to start their own business, positive, poised and confident in their own skills.

Moving East, Nairobi ticks many record boxes in the digital space. It is the most connected capital city in Sub Saharan Africa with 92 percent of adult people connected online daily. The Kenyan M-Pesa has transformed the lives of millions of Africans from around the continent and will continue to make consumption easier, accelerate the path to e-commerce and fuel growth both for consumers and brands.

In this context, brands that are actualizing growth are those that are able to successfully peel off the first layers of preconceptions, skepticism and hostility; brands that are moving away from the too-easy ‘hell-narrative’ to a more compelling and authentic narrative of faith in the continent, optimism, pride and drive; brands which tap into the ambient forces of self-belief, resilience, ingenuity and creativity; and yes, brands which put African resourcefulness at the center of their execution and the continent’s growth at the heart of their purpose.

Take Accor for instance. The world leading travel & lifestyle group reported a record year of growth last year in Africa, through a few strategic acquisitions but also powerful Africa-inspired lifestyles concepts developed across many African countries. In Dakar, the brand created never-seen-before living spaces, embedded in African culture & art, designed by talented local artists from fashion to photo to music. With a unique sense & taste of hospitality, they executed a new, long-awaited, narrative of the African Way of Life, winning massive audiences. More broadly across the continent, their MyChicAfrica lifestyles media platform invites to creativity, innovation and experiences in a continent under a different light. It pays off.

We learn from the winning brands that growth in Africa is the result of a powerful narrative of faith and desire, authentically and successfully translated into final products or services. One of my favorite African narrators amusingly says: ‘the one who does not have the capacity to project themselves in the future will not find themselves there’.

Ready to seize the future? Ready to love Africa? What do you think it will take for more brands to be successful in Africa? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Sethu , October 17, 2019
    I think in addition to genuinely loving and believing in the best of Africa, brands that make the effort to understand Africans through thorough market research and segementation, stand to gain greater relevance and thus sustainability within their industry and market. Africa is so diverse, and although we are growing faster than ever and modernising in many ways (which is great), there's still that dichotomy between modernity and and tradition. We are so intrinsically tied to our roots and heritage even as we forge forward, competing on a global level. When we compete, we do so on our own proudly African terms and I think brands which tap into those sort of uniquely African nuances will be successful.
  2. Ed C, October 16, 2019
    Great post. I, like I'm sure many readers, were not aware of this narrative. I love this line too - ‘the one who does not have the capacity to project themselves in the future will not find themselves there’ - as it speaks to taking smart actions and the consequence of what happens if not. To the direct question, like many other audiences, brands (global or otherwise) need to invest in understanding their potential (African) consumers so that they can design products and experience that best meet their needs.

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