Same continent. New year.
2016 was truly a year of highs and lows for Africa and we’ve been tracking these milestones to understand how they’re (re)defining consumer expectations. From entrepreneurial ventures to new killer apps, to big brand services and government initiatives, below we’ve highlighted only the very best of 2016’s innovations and the 5 key African consumer trends they’ll represent in 2017.
Of course, these trends will not only provide you with game-changing innovation opportunities, but they’ll help you to remain relevant by catering to your customers’ future needs, right now.
So dive in, absorb and share. Then prepare to build brands that excel, products that resonate and campaigns that go viral in Africa… and beyond!
Year of the (black) sheep!
With 2016 representing a year of social polarity, political extremism and further divisions, isolation has never felt so at home in the minds of the masses and the marginalized.
However, across the Middle East and Africa, 2017 will mark the year that a host of progressive brands and crowd-powered activist initiatives stand up for the repressed and the excluded.
Why? Because the expectation for more egalitarian societies has reached boiling point and, in 2017, ostracizing mentalities will no longer cut it for the majority of city-dwelling Africans. Many are all too familiar with the long-term negative effects of a divide and rule system, which today runs contrary to the aims of the continent (see the increasing convergence of the African Union).
Meanwhile, the exploding youth population is paving the way for a NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVE, one that snubs the parochial mind-set of those that came before. Young Africans are open to celebrating their differences, and seek brands willing to do the same.
So in 2017, expect to see more brands responding to these macro-shifts with new campaigns, empowering initiatives, and daring media, all heralding the rise of long-subdued or once taboo groups.
Albinism Society of Kenya: Beauty pageant hosted for people with albinism
October 2016 saw Kenya host the first ever beauty pageant for people with albinism. Held in Nairobi, and an initiative of Kenya’s first albino MP Isaac Mwaura (who also founded of the Albinism Society of Kenya), the event saw 20 contestants competing for titles and prizes. Activities involved in the national pageant included singing and dancing. In many parts of Africa, albinism is considered a curse, and albinos are discriminated against and regularly fall victim to violence.
PrideTV: LGBT video streaming service launched in SA
August 2016 saw the launch of PrideTV: South Africa’s first LGBT video-on-demand channel. Priced at ZAR 79 (USD 5.50) per month, over 200 titles were available at launch, including content from African directors and studios. PrideTV’s content spans numerous genres – including documentaries, comedies, and dramas. Around 65% of the content is gay male focused, with 35% having a lesbian and transgender interest.
UN Refugee Agency: Refugee team competes in the Olympic Games
In August 2016, the Refugee Olympic Team competed in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. An initiative from the UN Refugee Agency and the International Olympic Committee, the team was made up of athletes from Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – all of whom had fled their countries in the face of violence, war and persecution. The Refugee Olympic Team competed in sports including swimming, running and judo.
Zungueira Run: Game allows users to experience the lives of Angola’s peddler women
October 2016 saw Angola-based Bantu Games launch Zungueira Run: a free video game based on Angolan peddler women who sell goods in the street from large bowls carried on their heads. The Temple Run-style game allows players to assume the character of a peddler woman (also known as Zungueira), to collect coins while running away from the taxman. Zungueira often experience harsh treatment by authorities trying to crack down on the informal economy, with heavy fines and threat of imprisonment in place to deter the street vendors. The game made it to the semi-finals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition.
There Is No Difference: Egyptian group protests against harassment of female cyclists
In November 2016, a group of five teenagers in Port Said organized the first mass bike-riding event to protest against the intolerance of female cyclists. Calling themselves ‘There Is No Difference,’ the group aim to promote cycling as a viable option for women and put an end to harassment of those who choose to cycle in the Egyptian city.
Wealth is health.
In 2017, brands will pay closer attention to increasingly affluent African consumers who are looking for new ways to splurge on mental and physical wellbeing.
As a wave of entrepreneurship continues to sweep across the continent, expectant patients welcome a more dynamic service delivery, regardless of cost implications. Of course – recessions aside – disposable cash from the emerging middle classes are key. This group amounts for almost 50% of Kenya’s population, according to Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics.
Unlike in the West, where medical check-ups, fitness tracking devices and functioning health systems are ubiquitous, Africans have always taken it upon themselves to be wholly responsible for their own wellbeing. And with the ever-growing availability of health information online, the awareness of topical wellness issues (from gluten intolerance to internet addiction) is becoming more prominent in the mind of the average African consumer.
At the same time, social media has legitimized behavior once considered vain or boastful. A workout that isn’t captured and shared with a selfie is a workout wasted – after all, healthy consumers accrue status in the eyes of their peers.
HAUTE HEALTH products, services, and experiences that promise wellbeing and let users tell a story are bound to cause delight in 2017.
LagosVegFest: Festival promotes 'green living and yoga'
LagosVegFest’s 2016 theme was ‘green living and yoga’, with workshops and stalls showcasing food and fitness products and services designed for a healthy lifestyle. The three-day event, held in November 2016, included yoga classes from teachers across Nigeria, stalls showcasing vegetarian and vegan foods and events promoting green, sustainable living.
Bachir Mentouri: Internet rehab program funded by the Algerian government
October 2016 saw the launch of the Bachir Mentouri internet rehab program in Algeria. The program treats those suffering the effects of internet addiction such as red eyes, headaches, anxiety and back pain. Treatment is funded by the Algerian government and includes counseling, meditation, exercise and music therapy.
Zipline: Drones make healthcare deliveries in rural Rwanda
Zipline began running a drone delivery service in Rwanda during November 2016. With an operational distance of 150km (93 miles), the drones are being used to provide blood, plasma and coagulants to hospitals in rural areas of Rwanda, landing thanks to parachutes which are attached to the small packages. The battery-powered drones guide themselves via GPS system, and the service is paid for by Rwanda’s health department on a per-delivery basis.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH: Health campaign turns heartbeats into personalized music
During September and October 2016, 19 malls across the Middle East and North Africa offered complimentary heart health testing to female shoppers. Provided in partnership with the UAE’s Ministry of Health and City Centre Clinic, the service aimed to raise awareness of heart health while motivating women to exercise more. At certain malls, the Feel the Beat campaign recorded participant’s heartbeats via a digital stethoscope. A DJ was on hand to mix individual heartbeats with a track from a selection of 500 songs to create a personalized song. All participating malls were equipped to measure blood pressure, blood sugar and Body Mass Index, with the aim of promoting heart health awareness.
Flora: Food brand's pop-up educates consumers
August 2016 saw the opening of the Flora Blend Bar: a pop-up dedicated to educating consumers about the margarine spread. Located in a South African department store, visitors to the pop-up could learn about key ingredients via an interactive digital board as well as observe the blending process. Guests could also raise money for the Heart and Stoke Foundation by clocking up miles cycled on a stationary bike and a variety of margarine-based foods were on offer to try. The aim of the bar was to educate people, and help them make informed choices about their heart health.
Money's new makeover.
On a macro-economic scale, Financial Technology (FinTech) is set to be one of the biggest game-changers in 2017, as investors patiently await the killer FinTech product that, like M-Pesa, will disrupt, not only Africa, but also the world-at-large.
Confidence remains in the continent’s growth. In January 2017, the George Soros-backed private equity company LeapFrog Investments raised a rumored USD 800 million for new African businesses. But there’s still plenty of work to be done. In December 2016, a senior director from the Central Bank of Nigeria reported that 40% of the country’s population remains unbanked.
As digitally powered businesses on the continent begin to thrive, many are held back by the lack of financial infrastructure. According to McKinsey, e-commerce in Africa is expected to generate annual sales of USD 75 billion by 2025 (McKinsey, December 2016). Moreover, the digital world is growing exponentially across the continent: “Cameroon aims for its digital industry, which now accounts for a little under 5% of the GDP, to double in size to 10% over the next three years. The sector currently employs 10,000 people but also intends to expand that to 50,000 by 2020.” All this indicates the cruciality for online payments and mobile financial infrastructures to be put in place.
Local bricks and mortar markets no longer service the over-exposed tastes of the young; and that, coinciding with the ever-increasing need to transact fluidly across geographic borders, has made Africa’s transition into FinTech a matter of urgency.
Flutterwave: Secure digital system facilitates payments across Africa
Flutterwave is a financial transactions system allowing people to process secure payments and access banking services in Africa. Beta-launched in August 2016 offering services to Nigeria and Ghana, the US-based online system offers a safer infrastructure, facilitating simple card payments and bank transfers across Africa. Flutterwave’s digital payments system is accessible via APIs facilitating all payment options.
Amplify: Nigerian payment platform concentrates on subscription payments
A payment platform focusing entirely on subscription payments launched in Nigeria in June 2016. Amplify automates transactions which typically happen via cash, such as monthly pension contributions, insurance premiums, internet service subscriptions, and membership club fees. Aimed primarily at subscription businesses, customers can create, view, upgrade, monitor and cancel subscription plans; businesses are provided with insights and analysis in order to support their brand.
Standard Chartered Bank: Video banking services available online
Standard Chartered Bank has unveiled video banking services for customers across nine countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Initially launched in July 2016 in Malaysia and Singapore, the channel allows people to access many of the services available in store, such as taking out a loan, or signing up for new cards. Banking services are free to use, and selected markets also have access to wealth management advice.
NetPlusDotCom: App digitizes payment of church tithes in Nigeria
A free app facilitating the digitization of payments of church tithes and offerings in Nigeria was announced in August 2016. Introduced by Nigerian technology company netplusdotcom, the Ten mobile app works with the Central Bank of Nigeria, aiming to offer an additional channel for contributions alongside traditional methods. The free app also allows churches to offer other benefits such as streaming current and past services and the provision of a calendar of events.
Killing two needs with one stone.
Across the continent, many citizens are accustomed to being deprived of the everyday necessities their fellow (read: wealthier) citizens are accustomed to wasting.
Yet such shortcomings have meant that sharing resources and maximizing the uses of everyday items comes as second nature to most Africans. Reusing, repurposing, upcycling and sharing are interwoven into the very fabric of the African lifestyle. So much so that it’s integral to African culture.
Up until now, the formal consumption arena has seldom tapped into this phenomenon, opting for waste over sustainability. And despite the very apparent need for organizations to operate more efficiently, traditional businesses are still infamous for turning a blind eye to irresponsible operations that harm vulnerable communities.
In 2017, savvy brands will address some of Africa’s most fundamental issues by maximizing the purpose(s) of their offerings, and minimizing wasted resources. These brands will focus on CAPACITY CAPTURE by creatively unlocking new sources of value from what would otherwise be an underused (or dormant) product and service element.
Watly: Solar power unit provides electricity, clean water, and internet services across rural Africa
Launched in Nigeria and Sudan in April 2016, the Watly is a solar-powered machine aiming to provide electricity, clean water, and internet services across rural Africa. The device captures solar energy via photovoltaic panels on its surface, delivering 5,000 liters of drinking water each day, and providing wireless internet access within an 800-meter radius. The unit also operates as a charging station for electronic and mobile devices.
UBER: Taxi service collects and delivers donations for flash floods victims for free
November 2016 saw Uber in Johannesburg provide aid to residents in Alexandra who were affected by flash floods. UberCOMMUNITY allowed users to request a car that would collect and deliver items such as toiletries, babycare products, feminine hygiene products and non-perishable food items to over 130 people left homeless by the disaster. The transport provider offered the service for free, and requested that donations were boxed up and marked clearly to make the process as seamless as possible.
MONTANA LISBOA: Graffiti artists’ creations help prevent malaria
May 2016 saw Montana Lisboa launch a campaign aiming to help prevent the spread of malaria in Angola, where the disease is responsible for more than 6,000 deaths every year. The Lisbon-based graffiti store developed Zero: a spray paint made with citronella, which keeps mosquitoes away up to 30 meters from where it’s applied. Montana Lisboa then gave the paint to three well-known graffiti artists and asked them to create art works on empty walls on Luanda’s streets. The paint remains active and functional even after rainfall, preventing mosquitoes from breeding in nearby puddles.
HOTELS.NG: Travel etailer offers free event premises in their offices
From November 2016, organizations and individuals holding a training event in Lagos, Nigeria can use Hotels.ng’s premises for free. Provided that the event is taking place at the weekend, and that it concerns software, digital marketing or engineering, office space for up to 50 people is available. Hotels.ng provides electricity and internet for the event, which must be free for participants to attend.
City of Kigali: African city’s cashless buses offer free wifi
2016 saw the City of Kigali unveil a fleet of 400 smart buses equipped with 4G wifi. The Rwandan city’s buses also have a cashless payment system which functions via Tap and Go cards. Wifi speed on the buses is amongst the best in Rwanda, and the initiative is part of government plans to scale up broadband provision across the country.
Social gets more sociable.
With less time (and resources) to get things wrong, Africans in 2017 will be reveling in their own innovation-shortcuts that leapfrog the global status-quo regarding P2P, social media and other interactive platforms.
Before the internet existed, ‘community’ had long been a bedrock of African culture – more so than ‘individualism’. And thus, whether related to sharing, socializing, or even trading, the adoption of all things social was always going to be a no-brainer in African communities.
And while the continent was slower to jump on the digital bandwagon, 2016 represented the year that media conglomerates, developers and entrepreneurs alike began their departure from globalized platforms and began creating truly forward-facing and local and culturally-relevant solutions.
Most Africans already have a knack for navigating a plethora of nuanced interactive scenarios, all with intricate rules and specific conducts. From bartering in a marketplace to respectfully greeting a relative of high esteem or charming a potential date, the versatility of an average African consumer in an offline social setting is extensive. Yet up until now, Silicon Valley’s social media world has barely kept up – and young African consumers are impatient.
In 2017, regional innovators will turn their attention to social media solutions that leapfrog the West’s in order to ‘fit’ the needs of the local market. These social advancements will focus on embedding African cultural norms into services and platforms.
ENSEMBLE POUR LA DIFFERENCE: Remote African island offers wifi via innovative ‘mesh’ system
May 2016 saw the introduction of a new wifi network on the Congolese island of Idjwi. The mesh wifi network is beamed across the lake by a powerful antenna, with the signal being transmitted by masts. Around 10,000 islanders can access the wifi for free via a kiosk in the island’s largest village, where there are four computers and five tablets which villagers can use. The cable-free wifi network can also be picked up within 100 meters of the kiosk, although people can also make their own homemade antennae in order to share the connection. The project was developed by Congo-based social incubator Ensemble Pour La Difference in partnership with British innovation consultancy Fjord.
Linda Ikeji Social: Blogger's social network pays top users
In November 2016, a prolific Nigeria-based blogger and entrepreneur launched Linda Ikeji Social: a social network that combines new reports, social interactions and online shopping, and pays users with over 50,000 followers. The network also plans to reward users with NGN 8,000 (USD 63) for original news content pieces. The cash incentives are paid out via the wallet section on the network where people can add their bank account details. According to Ikeji, the aim of the business is to give back to the online community, with the hope that the network’s popularity will rival that of Facebook.
InstaVoice: Zambian service allows fans to receive audio updates from their favorite celebrities
InstaVoice Celeb is a service giving subscribers access to audio updates from their favorite celebrities. Launched by Zambian telecommunications company Zamtel, the service allows people to follow famous individuals such actors, musicians and fashion designers and receive periodic voice updates. Subscribers can also receive InstaVoice Sport updates, giving them access to audio alerts and updates from favorite soccer clubs, such as Manchester United and Arsenal.
NetFlorist: Floristry company’s videos show gift recipients’ reactions
In May 2016, South Africa-based NetFlorist launched a campaign filming people’s reactions to flower deliveries. A targeted online campaign directed consumers to the florist’s website where they were able to select the Happy Cam button and the delivery person filmed the reactions of the recipient and emailed the recordings to the sender. Netflorist’s videos could also be shared across social media.
Balogun Market: Social chat app recreates informal market experience
In October 2016, Nigeria-based Balogun Market launched an app that allows people to buy products and services via chat. The online marketplace was developed to make the goods sold at Balogun Market in Lagos more accessible by allowing customers to avoid travel and high temperatures in the city. According to the brand, many people people visit physical markets as a way of socializing and communication is often a prelude for commerce. BuyChat enhances service by recreating a market experience as users can browse, interact with sellers, haggle, and complete sales through the app. Shoppers can also book flights and hotels, order food, and connect with local brands.
Wango: Mobile dating app puts women first
Launched in South Africa in June 2016, Wango is a mobile dating app promising a ‘women-centered approach’. Male users are granted a ‘Gentlemen’s Badge’ on sign-up, but lose it if two users report ‘misbehavior’. The free app features icebreakers and one-click date requests, and all dating arrangements can be made in-app without the need to exchange phone numbers.
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As always, we wrap up these annual Trend Briefings with a call to action...
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