One element of the urban landscape in Africa that’s fast evolving is advertisements (not so much the infrastructure, but that’s another debate). As huge billboards – ever bigger, more flashy, more present, more inevitable – accompany me across my field research, a question becomes inevitable: how representative of the reality are they? How in-sync with fast changing lifestyles are they?
So let’s look for an answer when it comes to the hyper-connected, active, urban young woman. Both pictures in this short piece are situations in the Congo region (two countries), one is a billboard in a main avenue in DR Congo, the other shows an entrepreneur at a conference in Congo Brazzaville.
A finding of my research whilst covering the African Games 2015 in Brazzaville is that consumers massively engage on their mobile phones when watching TV. When something big happens on the first screen, the action on the second screen is equally big. A popular televised sporting event, such as a game with Les Diables Rouges, Congo’s national football team, transforms the mobile into a full social space of its own, away from the television.
The 2014 stats from the mobile operator association GSMA show a continued increase of the 3G coverage of Congo at 41.57% and a slowing mobile penetration at 99.57% (down from 103.49% in 2013). This robust profile, placing the country in the first continental tier, is a key factor in the shift of consumer behaviour.
In the living rooms, bars, parks and backyards, that I have visited, people say they use their handsets to connect with other sport fans, to share the excitement in real time. Some want to be the first to spread news and details not-seen-on-TV and position themselves as experts in their social network. For others, connecting post-game is a no-miss as it allows them to “continue the match”, to create the passionate debate set to take place the next day at work.
What is clearly a growing trend is that during and after TV, consumers move further into a larger variety of usages with their mobile, including payment services and money transfers. From rents, drinks to meals to betting, consumers want to maximise their connections, although chatting remains the dominant mobile usage by far.
As a majority of consumers use two to three operators simultaneously, they frenetically switch from one to the other depending on the price-value deals most relevant to them at a given time.
Can users become more conservative with their subscriptions? It will be interesting to see in the coming months whether consumers will be receptive to operators’ campaigns aggressively promoting long-term relationships and loyalty.