P&G targets Africa

20 January 2012

ABUJA: Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods giant, believes Africa is the "next frontier" of growth, and is placing an emphasis on corporate social responsibility in the region alongside more traditional efforts to drive revenues upwards.

The firm was recognised this week for its CSR activity in Nigeria as part of the latest annual US Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence.

P&G established a presence in Nigeria in 1991, and has invested over $70m in the country. Its philanthropic schemes have included providing 44m litres of clean drinking water and building ten mobile health clinics.

Its Always Care Programme, offering education about feminine hygiene, helps girls to remain in schools, while P&G has also supplied 7.5m tetanus vaccines to mothers and babies.

Moreover, its business has tripled in size in the country during the last five years, indicating the huge potential awaiting brand owners in Africa.

Bob McDonald, Procter & Gamble's chief executive, described Africa as the "next frontier" for the company, which makes products such as Tide detergent and Pampers nappies.

"We have an amazing congruence between what other people call corporate social responsibility and our business-building efforts," he told Bloomberg.

Despite the political and social instability observable in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, McDonald argued P&G's performance had "come back very strongly".

He added that the local issues facing P&G may not be the most obvious ones. "It's not like because people are rioting in the street, you're suddenly not going to wash your clothes," he said. "The big issue, frankly, is water. To use our products you need water."

According to McDonald, the average woman worldwide is required to walk six kilometres per day for water, something at the heart of P&G's activity in the CSR arena.

One key advantage for P&G, according to its chief executive, is that popular associations of the company are generally welcoming, rather than viewing the firm as an outsider.

"I don't think that the people of the world think of Procter & Gamble first and foremost as an American company," he said. "I have not seen where it's problematic."

Data sourced from Business Week; additional content by Warc staff