R&D among top priorities in Africa

23 July 2012

NAIROBI: Brand owners regard innovation and market share growth as the main strategies for driving up revenues in Africa, although numerous obstacles also exist which are limiting growth.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the advisory group, polled 201 chief executives in ten countries, some 27% of which cited new product development as the primary growth opportunity in the next 12 months.

This score matched the total posted by increasing share levels in existing markets. Expanding into untapped nations logged 24% on this metric, ahead of forming joint ventures and alliances on 13%, and mergers and acquisitions, yielding 7%.

"It makes all the sense in the world to operate in a much more joined-up, integrated way and take advantage of an increasingly integrated client base across Africa. And that's what we're doing," Maria Ramos, CEO of Absa Group and Barclays Africa, said.

More broadly, 92% of interviewees proved confident about corporate growth prospects for this year, a rising to 95% when looking at the next three years.

To facilitate this process, 85% of companies plan to adopt new approaches regarding talent mangement for the coming 12 months, while 83% anticipate seeing changes to technology investment rates.

A further 81% of organisations intend to reassess risk management procedures and strategies, while 73% anticipate implementing similar programmes with respect to their R&D capabilities.

"In order to win and even dominate tomorrow, we must start to globalise our benchmarks and raise the expectations for ourselves," said Yaw Nsarkoh, Unilever's managing director in Kenya.

When discussing innovation more specifically, some 74% of firms were working on new products, 71% wanted to cut costs, 65% have prioritised new business models and 62% were modifying existing goods and services.

Numerous risks were also perceived as posing a threat to growth, including uncertain or volatile economic conditions on 79%, fluctuating exchange rates on 76%, and talent shortages on 75%.

"Whether it's violence, political or economic [threats], there is always some risk somewhere and you just have to deal with it," Jay Ireland, General Electric's president/CEO for Africa, said.

Data sourced from PricewaterhouseCoopers; additional content by Warc staff