Africa offers opportunities

22 February 2011

JOHANNESBURG: The number of middle class consumers in Africa should increase by more than 50% during the coming decade, promising considerable opportunities for brand owners.

In a new report on the issue, McKinsey estimated the region's economy has grown by almost 5% annually since 2000, with 27 of the 30 largest markets accelerating at an even faster pace.

Commodities have contributed 24% of this cumulative amount, although retail and wholesale generated 13%, standing at 12% concerning tourism, and 10% for transport and telecoms.

Private consumption also surged by $275bn (€201bn; £169bn) in the last decade, a figure surpassing Brazil and India.

"Right now, most Africans are earning barely enough to make ends meet - but strong economic growth is changing that," McKinsey's study added.

"In the next ten years, several big changes will shape African consumer trends - all in ways consumer goods companies should welcome."

A strengthening middle class is one driver of these processes, as the density of households possessing a combined income of $5,000 a year or above expands from 85m at present to 128m in 2020.

"That's the level at which shopping involves choices, not just necessity," the study said.

"Food and basic consumer goods will still take up most space in African shopping baskets, but there will increasingly be room for more interesting items."

By 2040, the continent is also expected to boast the world's largest working-age population, and another 500m children could be born by 2030, providing marketers a youthful, aspirational audience in the long term.

Supporting these shifts is the move towards urban living, with an extra 15 cities in Africa containing a minimum 1m residents emerging in the past ten years, and a further 19 due to join this group by 2020, taking the total to 71.

Overall, 117m people have migrated to metropolitan centres in the last ten years, meaning the region's urbanisation rate beats that of India, and is not far behind China.

In an indication of the prospects this affords, citizens in Ghana's capital, Accra, collect salaries roughly 70% higher than the national average.

The ten busiest cities, including Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt, Algiers in Morocco, Johannesburg in South Africa, and Lagos in Nigeria are projected to yield over $1tr in GDP collectively by 2020.

"A cluster of megacities is a natural entry point for marketers," McKinsey argued.

Mobile phones sales have boomed in Africa, with more handsets likely to be in circulation than there are people to use them by 2015.

Penetration has already attained such a benchmark in Gabon, and is nearing the same level in South Africa, while even in Sudan, a country troubled by war in recent decades, it has reached 45%.

"The phone is far more than a means of conversation - it's a way to deliver services and data," McKinsey argued.

Facebook, for example, has created a scheme offering free access via this channel in ten countries, like Cote d'Ivoire, Congo, Rwanda, Sudan and Swaziland.

McKinsey's research also revealed 85% of local shoppers would be willing to receive mobile advertising, including listening to brand messages.

Currently, over 400 multinational corporations claim at least $200m in annual revenue from Africa, and although challenges remain covering a lack of talent and infrastructural development, the potential cannot be ignored.

"The commercial opportunities are only starting to be tapped," McKinsey concluded.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff