As intimated last week, I had the pleasure of giving a speech at a webinar on the UN’s sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) organised by the Global Centre for the Promotion of International Trade (CGPIT). The CGPIT is an organisation based out of India and South Africa with board and council member representation across the world “to implement relevant major national development strategies, and promote foreign trade, bilateral investment and economic and technological cooperation; carry forward cooperation with overseas trade promotion counterparts; receive overseas high-end trade and economic delegations.” My topic was “Equitable distribution of resources as a strategic mechanism to redress societal ills: A brand architect’s perspective.” As I promised last week to share with you my intervention, here I deliver on that promise.

I prefaced my quick intervention by first borrowing an inspirational message from William Arthur Ward: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” 

Africa is God’s both geological and geographic gifts to humanity, and yet over 40% of her population continues to live in abject poverty.

According to the “Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report 2020”, one reason behind the slowdown in global extreme poverty reduction is the slow progress in Sub-Saharan Africa. The latest estimates show that the regional poverty rate decreased by 1.6 percentage points between 2015 and 2018. This translates to 40% of the population living below the US$1.90-a-day poverty line in 2018 and Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for two-thirds of the global extreme poor population. This has obviously increased since the outbreak of the COVId-19 pandemic.

The mineral industry of Africa is the largest mineral industry in the world. Africa is the second largest continent after Asia, with 11.73 million miles of land, which implies large quantities of resources. It has a population of over 1.3 billion people. For many African countries, mineral exploration and production constitute significant parts of their economies and remain keys to economic growth. Africa is richly endowed with mineral reserves and ranks first in quantity of world reserves most precious metals – such as bauxitecobalt, industrial diamondphosphate rockplatinum-group metals (PGM)vermiculite, and zirconium.

What is to be done?

The statistics of poverty and inequality quoted above look dire. But I’m not wallowing in self-pity. Africa is hard at work trying to reverse the legacy of colonialism and we are confident of our future. Why am I confident?

Personally, I’m inspired by Immanuel Kant when he mused: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it…” 

So how will we redress these imbalances post this challenging period that H.E. Wamkele Mene, the SG of the AfCFTA Secretariat, has developed a concept characterising it as the “pancession” – that is the COVID-19 pandemic induced economic recession? Duma Gqubule, the founding director at the Centre for Economic Development and Transformation in South Africa, says matter-of-factly: “We must change our macroeconomic policies!”

Let me expand on Gqubule’s response by quoting four strategic objectives that the African Development Bank (AfDB) has developed in one of their publications which I believe are relevant, and these were:

Feed Africa: Agriculture forms a significant portion of the economies of all African countries, as a sector it can therefore contribute towards major continental priorities, such as eradicating poverty and hunger, boosting intra-Africa trade and investments, rapid industrialization and economic diversification, sustainable resource and environmental management, and creating jobs, human security and shared prosperity.

Power Africa: According to the “Africa Energy Outlook Report 2019”, rapid  economic and population growth in Africa, particularly in the continent’s burgeoning cities, will have profound implications for the energy sector, both regionally and globally. The stage is set for a new wave of dynamism among African policy makers and business communities, with falling costs of key renewable technologies opening up new avenues for innovation and growth. Chief among the challenges is providing universal access to reliable, modern, affordable and sustainable energy. Realising the potential of the continent’s natural gas and mineral resources presents another key challenge.

Industrialise Africa: According to business reports, since 2010, the continent has witnessed enormous innovation, particularly within the digital technology space. Its huge number of highly educated, and skilled population has made it an epicentre for transformative growth. 

Integrate Africa: The World Bank has indicated that the AfCFTA would lift 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty and boost the incomes of nearly 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 a day; Boost Africa’s income by $450 billion by 2035 (a gain of 7 percent) while adding $76 billion to the income of the rest of the world.

Brand Africa

Africa is on the rise – as The Economist has indicated. The continent’s numerous untapped opportunities have made it attractive to investors, entrepreneurs, and expatriates worldwide. As the fastest urbanising region globally, Africa’s fast-growing economy is the hot cake for multinational corporations looking to multiply their profits. 

While we pursue these four strategic objectives that I outlined above, we have to invest valuable resources into managing the reputation of “Made in Africa” service and product brands. According to Seth Godin, a brand “is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Phillip Kotler has explained that marketing is not only a function of the business –marketing is a function which is valid for non-profit organizations as well– and that the entire organization has a marketing problem that all need to understand marketing.

So MSMEs have to adopt digital marketing platforms to promote their service and product brands. Adoption of digitisation is not only in line with COVID-19 safety protocols, but because of its considerations such as its cost effectiveness; virtual audience interaction and enhancement of brand loyalty. Digital marketing platforms are highly effective and the latest research has indicated that in the past ten years the readership on mobile platforms has increased by 460% (from 45 minutes to 4 hours 12 minutes) and on desktop by 26%; while the losers were TV which decreased by 24%, radio by 19% and magazines by 50%.

According to Simon Kemp, cited in https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-south-africa, global internet users have escalated by over 330 million in the past twelve months – meaning an average 900 000 per day. 

This brought us to a cumulative total reach of 4.7 billion from the beginning of April 2021 – and the clicks are increasing right now as you read this.

While the global population has increased nominally by 1%, higher compared to last year at the same time in April, to 7.85 billion, the number of internet consumers has increased by 7.6 percent since 2020 to a whopping 4.72 billion. 

This means over 60 percent of the global population had access to the internet – meaning 6 out of every 10 people.

There are over 5.27 billion unique mobile users around the world – meaning that more than 66 percent of the global population do have a mobile phone (yes, we do acknowledge there could be a nominal number of users owning multiple devices).

Since 2020, over 500 000 new social media accounts were created taking the total to a global 4.33 billion by April this year – even in this instance, I do acknowledge other users, such as yours truly, may have multiple accounts. 

It has also been found that just over 99 percent of internet users aged between 16 and 64 are active on social media networks or internet-enabled messaging services such as WhatsAppSignalImoTelegramand even Messenger.

it is worth noting that contrary to popular belief, internet penetration in Africa is relatively impressive compared. I will now share with you just from Africa’s four regional economic capitals – namely, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt.

South Africa

Out of a population of 59,67 million people as at January 2021 – meaning a population increase of 741 thousand (+1.3%) between January 2020 and January 2021 (67.6% living in urban centres, while 32.4% in rural areas) – there are 38.19 million internet users in South Africa as at January 2021. 

This represents an increase of internet users by 1.7 million (4.5%) from 2020 and 2021. Internet penetration in the country was standing at 64.0% in January 2021.

Furthermore, there were 25 million social media users in South Africa in January 2021 having increased by 3 million (14%) within the period under review. 

This makes the number of social media users to an equivalent of 41.9%.

The number of mobile users are quite impressive – though they validate the point I alluded to earlier about some users owning multiple devices. 

There were 100.6 million mobile connections in South Africa as at January 2021 recording an increase of 817 thousand (0.8%) during the period under review. 

The total number represents 168.5% of the total population.

Nigeria

In Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, the humongous population stands at 208.8 million as at January 2021 – notching an increase by 5.2 million (2.6%) between January 2020 and January 2021.

The country recorded 104.4 million internet users in January 2021 – an increase of 19 million (+22%) between 2020 and 2021. This means the internet penetration stood at 50% as at January 2021.

On the social media front there were 33.00 million users in January 2021 – representing an increase of 6 million (22%) between 2020 and 2021. This total number of social media users constituted 15.8% of the total population in January 2021.

There are 187.9 million mobile connections in Nigeria as at January 2021 – representing an 10 percent increase (approximately 17 million). 

Egypt

Egypt had a population of 103.3 million in January 2021 – recording a population increase by 1.9 million (+1.9%) between January 2020 and January 2021.

There were 59.19 million internet users in Egypt in January 2021 – representing an increase by 4.5 million (+8.1%) between 2020 and 2021.

There were 49.00 million social media users in Egypt in January 2021 – an increased by 7.0 million (+17%) between 2020 and 2021.

This represents an equivalent of 47.4% of the total population in January 2021.

There were 95.75 million mobile connections in Egypt in January 2021 – an increase by 2.7 million(+2.9%) between January 2020 and January 2021. This is equivalent of 92.7% of the total population.

Kenya

Kenya had a population of 54.38 million in January 2021 – an increase of 1.2 million (+2.3%) between January 2020 and January 2021.

There were 11.00 million social media users in Kenya in January 2021 – an increase of 2.2 million(+25%) between 2020 and 2021. This is an equivalent of  20.2% of the total population in January 2021.

There were 59.24 million mobile connections in Kenya in January 2021 – an increase of 5.9 million (+11%) between January 2020 and January 2021. The number of mobile connections was equivalent to 108.9% of the total population.

As MSMEs, we have to invest in brand management activities to ensure our services and products are consumed, our revenues go up and we become sustainable and grow, we contribute to the continent’s revenue, and we reduce inequalities. 

Although I have previously indicated that the only top African brand was MTN ranked st 501 globally by Brand Finance, We have decided to share with you two surveys just for learning purposes for you to know what it takes to build a brand but also just to inspire you as aspiration is one of the ingredients of success. 

From the first survey, “The world’s top 100 brands”, the following insights into growing a brand’s value are deduced:

  • The Big Get Bigger

The author, Carmen Ang, argues a brand’s growth rate is closely correlated with high brand equity – meaning its awareness, perceived quality, loyalty or affinity among or from the consumers. 

  • Marketing Makes a Difference 

Developing an appropriate and impactful messaging is key – and this doesn’t depend on the size of any brand, meaning a small brand can make a splash. This could be achieved by developing emotional associations, such as pride and popularity with your brand. One may remember phenomenal conscientious messaging from the fashion brand, United Colours of Benetton.

  • Smart Investment

I have been arguing consistently for investing in innovative strategies that will perpetuate your brand messaging. 

Then the lesson from the second survey speaks to a brand’s dynamism in responding to the marketing conditions. For me this takes me to the application of one of Sun Tzu’s principles as outlined in the iconic book, “The Art of War”, which is about flexibility and adaptation of our plans to respond to the changing material conditions. Vietnamese military strategist, Vo Nguyen Giáp, wrote extensively about this too.

Before I sign off, let me pay tribute to Prof Tshimpaka Yanga, a member of this news portal’s Editorial Advisory Board who passed on during the week. It’s a personal loss for me and just too difficult to accept that this tower is no more. He was my dearest brother, former lecturer and an eternal mentor. I will forever cherish my memories with him and this will always inspire me to strive to be a better person every second of my life as he always wished the best for me. He is the first person who introduced me to the brand of pan-Africanism that I fully embraced before it became popular as it is now in South Africa – that former President Thabo Mbeki coined African Renaissance. This was in 1994 when he was my post-graduate lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. And we remained friends ever since. I am the man I am today because of him. He was highly intellectual and yet unimposing; a decorated academic, and yet highly humble; full of enriching ideas and yet unassuming. When I established Jambo Africa Online last year September, his name was on top of the list of those eminent professionals I wanted to invite to serve in the Editorial Advisory Board, and indeed he accepted the invite without a slight hesitation. I will always remember him more on October 9, the day of his burial, as it also happens to be my birthday. Though the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for me to travel because of my vulnerabilities, I will make time in the near future to go visit his resting place. His soul may have departed our shores, but his ideas will forever remain etched on our minds and will permeate the articles in this news portal. May his soul rest in power. Heartfelt condolences to his wife and the family.

Let me close by sharing a short anecdote with you. In the 1960s a global school shoe brand sent one of their Executives to do market research in one African country. He arrived and saw many school children not wearing any shoes. He went back and said: “There’s no market, school learners DON’T WEAR shoes.” The company lost interest in that market.

Ten years later, the same company sent another Executive. He got there and found the same conditions existing. He went back and wrote: “The market potential in that country is extremely huge as many school children DON’T HAVE SHOES TO WEAR.” The company acted on this, entered the market, and today they are Africa’s number one school show brand.

So, ladies and gentlemen, make a choice whether you’re the first Executive or the second. From where I’m sitting, opportunities abound in Africa.

Please click on this link for the video recording of my presentation at the CGPIT webinar last week:

I thank you.

Saul Molobi

Publisher

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